Star Parker

New Gallup polling shows the clearest picture yet of the great divide in the Republican Party that has been pushing Rick Santorum to the head of the class.

Behind Santorum’s eight point national lead over Romney is a yawing gap in ideological support for the two candidates.

Conservative support for Santorum stands at 42 percent, compared to 24 percent for Romney. Among those who attend church frequently, support for Santorum is at 44 percent and for Romney 22 percent.

In the nation’s heartland in the Midwest and South, Santorum leads by 19 and 8 points respectively. It is only on the more liberal East and West coasts where the two are running neck and neck.

The poll also challenges conventional wisdom that Santorum is too conservative for the tastes of independent voters. He is leading Romney among Republican leaning independents by 8 points.

With Santorum establishing himself as the candidate of choice among conservative and church going Republicans, Romney’s tactic, manifest in the debate in Arizona, is to try and discredit Santorum’s credentials that is drawing conservative voters to him.

Having served two full terms in the U.S. Senate, there are enough party line votes on Santorum’s part to expose him to the attacks he got in Arizona as being a business-as-usual party politician.

I don’t believe this approach will dissuade those generally attracted to Santorum’s traditional values conservatism.

Even in the case of the most ideologically disposed candidate, politics will always be the art of the possible. Particularly in a nation as big and complex as ours.

Consider, for instance, that the Supreme Court has recently agreed to hear a challenge to racial preferences in college admissions policies at the University of Texas. There is a good chance that the court decision will overturn the Grutter v Bollinger decision of 2003 in which racial preferences were upheld.

That decision, arguing that the nation needed to continue racial preferences in college admissions, was written by Sandra Day O’Connor, who was President Reagan’s first Supreme Court appointment.

Given Reagan’s legacy as conservative hero, it is hard to believe that his first Supreme Court appointment was a pro-choice moderate.

Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.