Rick Santorum is the latest Anybody but Romney. The Bachman, Perry, Cain and Gingrich boomlets are over. Each was tried and found wanting. Can Santorum do any better?
The argument that he can't make it is that he is too socially conservative. The guy is a serious Catholic who gives social issues more than a nod an a wink. To be sure, some of his positions on these issues will be misrepresented or misunderstood (see the comments to my post about Alan Colmes) but Santorum is at odds with elite sensibilities about matters of faith, sexuality and family in a way that most national politicians are not. He will get "Tebowed" (in a different sense) by Saturday Night Live, sneered at by Maureen Dowd and generally portrayed as the second coming of Torquemada. Again, much of it will be unfair but his moment at the top is going to test the proposition that a someone who is seriously religious and fundamentally committed to traditional values can be successful on a national level.
How he handles this criticism is going to be important. To be sure, he needs to point out the differences between what he has said and what he will be accused of saying, but he's also going to have to adopt a reassuring tone that reflects his own commitments without being seen as censorious. Can he do it? We'll see.
But there is more to this guy. He is not out of touch like Bachman, uninformed like Cain, compromised like Gingrich and, shall we say, challenged like Perry. This is a guy that Bono likes. He can be portrayed as many things, but mean is not one of them. Although there are going to be questions about his commitment to limited government, there is nothing about him that will turn off the conservative base and certain things about him that could appeal to independent voters who think that humility, responsibility, constancy and care are important attributes for a President. Whether he can communicate any of that is anyone's guess.
You wonder about new entrants although I suspect that the timing of the primaries precludes that. But there is blood in the water and, if Romney falters at all in New Hampshire (i.e.. does not win by "enough"), we could be in uncharted territory.