Our own Rick Santorum's a hit in the initial test of 2012. What can it mean?

Does it mean Pennsylvania's positioned to get its first White House resident since James Buchanan (1857-61), a regular on lists of worst presidents?

Uh, no.

It means some lily-white Iowa evangelical farmers think the problems of the country can be solved by outlawing abortion and gay marriage and bombing Islamic nations.

It means the heretofore-ignored Santorum gets a turn in the Mixmaster of presidential-campaign coverage.

It means his campaign momentarily rises before sinking like the lead balloons of former "front-running" campaigns of Bachmann, Perry and Cain.

And for three reasons: He's got no money, he's got no general appeal and, nationally, nobody knows much about him.

Remember, this year in the GOP, the fresh, new, not-Mitt face looks good for only so long. I figure we already can start saying "so long" to Rick.

Yes, he finished in the top tier of Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses (he was narrowly leading at press time). But this is the most overcovered non-event in modern American politics and predictive of nothing. Past top-tier finishers were Mike Huckabee, Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes, Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson.

Rick's of that ilk - which is to say, headed nowhere.

The question of what particular piece of Santorum baggage drags him down is an open one. But, as on most airlines these days, very few bags fly free.

Will it be his messianic ego which, when pressed, manifests itself as red-rooster rage? Ask anyone who's covered him. Tuesday, he called Ron Paul "disgusting."

Will it be his general I'm-smarter-holier-and-better-than-thou demeanor?

Or will it be one of many specific Santorisms that help define him?

Perhaps the national news media will look at his 2001 charity, the Good Neighbor Foundation: unregistered, run by lobbyists, spent just 36 percent of what it raised (less than half the norm) on charity and 57 percent on salaries, travel and such.

Maybe fellow Catholics will recall his 2002 contention that the church's child-sex scandals were the fault of Boston liberalism, whatever that means.

His 2003 Associated Press interview, during which he famously compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, drew national attention. It's ripe for a rerun.

And I feel certain his fellow conservatives and anti-abortion backers will love being reminded that in 2004 he endorsed pro-choice moderate Arlen Specter.

Everyone should enjoy recounting how, while living in Virginia, he had the Penn Hills School District in suburban Pittsburgh paying to cyber-educate his kids.

Then there was his publicized culture-of-life support in 2005 for the comatose Terry Schiavo during a Florida legal fight between her husband and her parents over her life-support. Rick went uninvited to pray with her parents. He went on a Wal-Mart jet. He used the trip to get to a $250,000 fundraiser for his re-election campaign - proving, I guess, he believes that commitment to causes is important.

Santorum compared himself to Winston Churchill in 2006, warning against a "gathering storm" of evil-doers out to destroy our nation.

These days he just says bomb Iran - and tries to explain why he endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008.

So if the national media wonder how an incumbent senator and member of Senate leadership in 2006 lost re-election in his home state by 17 points, I've got the answer: Pennsylvania got to know him.

Now it's the nation's turn.

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