To experience a surge in the preseason GOP presidential primary, you need to fulfill two requirements:

1. You must have a pulse.

2. You must be brashly right-wing.

Michele Bachmann? Check. Rick Perry? Check. Herman Cain? Check. Newt Gingrich? Actually, Gingrich's past and present policy positions, like just about everything else about him, are all over the map, as Ed Kilgore pointed out on this Web site way back in March. (Newt's furtive intermittent liberalism--mainly the pork-barrelling kind--was also a theme of a 1985 Gingrich profile in the Atlantic by Nicholas Lemann that, alas, is not available online.) But rhetorically, Gingrich can spout right-wing demagoguery with the best of them. I agree with Jonathan Bernstein that any Gingrich surge must be judged an inherently unstable phenomenon, and with almost a full month left before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus I see no reason why voters can't have one more preseason fling.

Poor Jon Huntsman certainly deserves a surge of his own, but he flunks the second requirement, if only because he served in the Obama administration. That leaves Santorum. And so the drumbeat for a Santorum surge hath commenced. Santorum has apparently spent more time in Iowa than any of the GOP candidates, Christiane Amanpour pointed out yesterday on ABC News's This Week, by way of introducing Santorum. "We keep moving up, moving up slowly," Santorum volunteered, and now "we're within the margin of error of Rick Perry and [Iowa-born] Michele Bachmann." Santorum then offered some hopeful boomlet-ology:

"So if you look at all of these little boomlets, they last about four to six weeks. Newt is in about week three. So we feel pretty good that, you know, come the middle of December and toward the end of December, as candidates are looking for a candidate they can trust, someone that is authentic, someone who knows what they believe in and why they believe it, and has a record to back up the rhetoric as to what they want to do to change this country, because we do need big changes, well, who has been doing that? Who has been out there? Who has been, you know, fighting city hall, if you will, and having success at doing it? We've got the good track record and I think that's going to pay off in the end."

Santorum then pointed out that, unlike Gingrich, "I have been married 21 years. I have 7 children, that's a factor that people are going to look at and should look at when it comes to the person you're going to have to lead the country." About Mitt Romney, he said, "There's no question that Mitt has moved [in a conservative direction]. The question is, you know, what's the sincerity of the move and whether he can be trusted?"

According to GOP strategist Ed Rogers, "the insider GOP buzz is about former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and the unpredictable potential of Congressman Ron Paul." Iowa GOP consultant Ryan Rhodes told Talking Points Memo that social conservatives are right now thinking, "‘Do I go to Santorum or Bachmann?" Tim McNulty of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a tongue-in-cheek "Daily Santorum" blog feature, just in case. And my former colleague at Slate, Dave Weigel, has started a "Santorum Surge Watch," though I think he's mostly kidding, too. In this environment, though, today's wisecrack is tomorrow's front-runner. Let the Santorum surge begin.