Rick Santorum was robbed… or so I thought. Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa Caucuses by a mere eight votes. It might have been symbolic, but it supported the widespread opinion that Romney was the front runner and perhaps unbeatable. Then, a second count of the ballots showed that 1) Rick Santorum seemed to be the winner but 2) some ballots were lost, so the outcome was named a “virtual tie.”

Okay, that’s old history but worth recapping for just a moment. Because now, after a week of social issues wrangling — particularly between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church over contraceptive coverage — Rick Santorum appears to be the GOP frontrunner.

Here’s a bit from the New York Times:

A survey conducted Wednesday through Sunday by the Pew Research Center shows Mr. Santorum with 30 percent of the vote among Republican and Republican-leaning voters, virtually tied with Mr. Romney, who has 28 percent. A month ago in the survey, Mr. Romney held a commanding lead over Mr. Santorum, 31 percent to 14 percent.

A separate national poll by Gallup also conducted Wednesday through Sunday shows a similar surge for Mr. Santorum. The Gallup poll also has both men essentially tied, with Mr. Romney at 32 percent and Mr. Santorum at 30 percent. A Gallup poll released a week ago, on Feb. 5, showed Mr. Santorum at 16 percent, well behind Mr. Romney at 37 percent.

He did win three (non-delegate-granting) contests, but could the momentum relate more to how starkly social issues have taken the fore?