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Santorum and Romney, Catholicism and South Carolina Santorum and Romney, Catholicism and South Carolina

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Santorum and Romney, Catholicism and South Carolina

January 4, 2012
Rick Santorum was propelled to his strong finish in Iowa by the votes of evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics. But what now?

He'll find more of the latter in New Hampshire which is 13th in percentage of Catholics among the 50 states and the District of Columbia with almost a quarter of the population identifying themselves as part of the church. By contrast, South Carolina ranks 49th, just ahead of Mississippi and Tennessee. Santorum's doing well with evangelicals so the pool of voters who might be warm to him remains big in the Palmetto state. But with Rick Perry staying in the race and perhaps getting another look from voters, plus Gingrich and Paul sticking around, it's likely to be somewhat more difficult for Santorum to put together his Iowa coalition.
 Indeed, South Carolina Republican primary voters have a history of rallying around front runners not just the most conservative person in the race. It's where George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush helped put away their respective rivals in 1988 and 2000. It's where Ronald Reagan delivered the coup de grace in 1980. So even though it's 30 percent evangelical in population and a much higher percentage in the GOP primary, there's been a strong establishment streak here. Whether Romney can continue to benefit from a divided field in South Carolina and its tendency to back front runners. 
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