GOP Debate on FoxNews Tonight

Stakes Highest for Santorum in South Carolina Debate on FoxNews Tonight

The bid by cultural conservatives to anoint Rick Santorum as the winner of the “Not Romney” Republican intra-primary primary has run aground.

That leaves the former Pennsylvania senator as the man with the most at stake in tonight’s FOX News/Wall Street Journal/South Carolina GOP debate. A breakout showing could revive Santorum’s chances, but if he fails, his campaign will founder.

The FOX News poll out today shows Santorum in a statistical three-way tie for second place nationally among Republican voters with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

But in make-or-break South Carolina, Santorum trails Gingrich, who represented neighboring Georgia in Congress for 20 years, by an average of nearly 8 points in recent state polls. Santorum has been losing steam since his post-Iowa boom while Gingrich’s support has seemed to solidify following a December swoon and a backlash against his attacks on frontrunner Mitt Romney’s business record.

But more difficult for Santorum is that while his momentum has stalled, Paul, riding publicity from his second-place finish in New Hampshire, has gained ground. Plus, South Carolina’s Saturday primary is open to all registered voters, allowing Paul-backing independents to have their say.



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