By Wolf Blitzer, CNN
Mesa, Arizona (CNN) – It’s been a difficult few days for Rick Santorum. Fairly or unfairly, you always know you have a campaign problem when media outlets are asking you about statements you’ve made about Satan and Hitler.
To his credit, he’s not ducking and weaving. He’s not shying away from answering these questions and others involving his stance on the most sensitive social issues out there, including gay rights, abortion, contraception, religion and a woman’s role in the military.
I know he would much rather be talking about the economy, taxes and national security. I also know he would love to be able to focus his attention on President Barack Obama rather than having to defend himself.
The pro-Mitt Romney, pro-Newt Gingrich and pro-Ron Paul camps are out there right now in full force going after Santorum. He has had an impressive run and now, arguably, he’s the front-runner. He leads in several national polls among registered Republicans. He’s doing remarkably well in Arizona and Michigan, which have contests next Tuesday.
He’s done all this with a much smaller staff than Romney and a whole lot less money. Money, of course, talks when it comes to politics, but it’s not always decisive. Santorum has proven that.
I will be carefully watching tonight how he handles his new front-runner status. Will he let the other candidates get under his skin? When he’s attacked - and he will be attacked - will he respond in a cool, calm manner or will he lose it?
The four candidates tonight and CNN moderator John King will all be seated. That will give the debate a bit of a different look and maybe even feel.
I know some people have joked that there have been too many Republican debates, but this political news junkie loves them, and they’ve made a huge difference in the primaries and caucuses.
CNN LIVE: Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET for the last presidential debate before Super Tuesday, the CNN/Arizona Republican Party Debate hosted by John King. Follow it on Twitter at #CNNDebate and on Facebook at CNN Politics. For real-time coverage of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, go to CNNPolitics.com or to the CNN apps or CNN mobile web site.
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