(Fox News) The immortal campaign words from the 1990s, "It's the economy, Stupid," were thought to apply to the campaign season of 2012, too. But recent circumstances have re-ignited the culture wars and help to explain the sudden and unlikely rise of Rick Santorum, a Republican social conservative who was all but written off.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, has ridden into a statistical tie with Mitt Romney, according to three recent national polls. His ascendancy largely is the result of four key controversies that have risen with uncanny timing to ignite a fire among evangelicals, Catholics and social conservatives.
They include the decision by the Obama administration, now amended, to require institutions run by the Roman Catholic Church to provide contraception coverage to female workers; the ruling by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that overturns California's law banning gay marriage; the Pentagon's decision to open about 14,000 combat-related positions to women, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation's decision to withdraw, then restore, grant money to Planned Parenthood.
"This is (Santorum's) bread and butter," says Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report. "Rick Santorum couldn't have manufactured this scenario, where he is in a dead heat with Mitt Romney.