The former Pennsylvania senator has always lagged among female voters, and President Obama would happily exploit that in the general election.
Much of what's been written about Rick Santorum's political history has centered on 2006, the year he suffered an 18-point landslide loss to Democrat Bob Casey in an otherwise awful year for Republicans.
But the more instructive campaign to look at to assess Santorum's electability is his 2000 victory against then-Democratic Rep. Ron Klink, an election he won with 52 percent of the vote. What's striking about the exit polling from that race is the huge gender gap Santorum engendered even in victory.
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Against a Democratic congressman who opposed abortion, Santorum dramatically underperformed with women voters. That would likely repeat itself if he emerged as the Republican nominee against President Obama.
Santorum won an impressive 57 percent of the vote among men; that number increased to 60 percent just looking at white men. But among women, Santorum lost to Klink, winning just 48 percent of the vote. Among white women, he barely inched past the Democrat, 52 to 47 percent.
Klink carried working women, 53 to 45 percent, but among women who stayed at home, Santorum comfortably prevailed, 56 to 42 percent.