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Democrats keeping an eye on surging Rick Santorum

February 15, 2012|By Colby Itkowitz | The Morning Call
  • Rick Santorum meets with business leaders on Wednesday in Tioga, N.D.
Rick Santorum meets with business leaders on Wednesday in Tioga, N.D. (Will Kincaid / Associated…)

The opposition research and rapid response that flows from the Democratic National Committee is still sharply focused on Mitt Romney, but a national Democratic strategist said Wednesday that as Rick Santorum's star rises Democrats are starting to pay attention to the former Pennsylvania senator.

The Democrats are "starting to take him more seriously," the strategist told the Morning Call. "They're starting to poke around more and look into his record."

It's unclear just how seriously the Democrats are taking a Santorum nomination, but if they are readying opposition it means that even they think there's a chance President Obama may not be facing Romney in November.

Ever since Santorum's stunning trifecta victory in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado a week ago, he's been surpassing Romney in nearly every public opinion poll.

In a national poll released by CBS and the New York Times, Santorum is up 30% to 27% among Republican voters. Other polls show him leading Romney in Michigan, from where the former Massachusetts governor hails. And a Quinnipiac University poll Wednesday also shows Santorum ahead in battleground Ohio.

President Obama's top campaign adviser, David Axelrod, spoke Wednesday about Santorum on "CBS This Morning." He tried to divert the conversation back to Romney, saying Santorum's rise shows Romney has problems, but host Charlie Rose cut him off and asked about Santorum's appeal to blue-collar voters.

"I think when people really examine his economic policies, I don't think that the average working person in this country is going to look at his policies and say, 'Yeah, that's the ticket for me. That offers great hope for me,' " Axelrod said in the interview. "Secondly, I think that many of the positions he's taken on social issues are quite divisive. Not widely shared."

"People don’t really know Sen. Santorum particularly well, and when they do we'll get a better sense of where he stands," he said.

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