Is there time to squeeze in one more Not Mitt Romney candidate surge in the few days before the Iowa caucus? There's definitely a surge of Rick Santorum surge stories: The Wall Street Journal, The Washington PostUSA TodayThe Hill. Though he's still averaging fourth place, Santorum has gained 10 percentage points in Iowa in the last month. He's the one who's run the most traditional campaign, and Politico's James Hohmann writes that the "tortoise strategy is starting to pay dividends." The Journal's Patrick O'Connor reports that 150 people showed up at a Santorum event this week, while a similar one drew just 20 last month. "Now, in a race defined by rapid booms and busts, one Republican left on the sidelines throughout is experiencing a boomlet of his very own," O'Connor writes. Can the boomlet last?

The Washington Examiner'Byron York argues that all of Santorum's hard work is going to pay off, because social conservatives have wanted to back Santorum but were skeptical he could win, and now it looks like he has a chance.  And Santorum told the Journal that he doesn't expect to win the caucuses, if he beats Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, "we'll become the conservative alternative" and then "we'll have a lot of good states." He told an Iowa radio host Thursday, "There’s the libertarian primary, which Ron Paul’s going to win. Then you’ve got the moderate primary, which Gingrich and Romney are scrumming for. And you’ve got three folks who are running as strong conservatives," ABC News' Shushannah Walshe reports.
 
But the strength of Santorum's conservatism might be his problem. NBC News' First Read points out that Santorum is "viewed as a bit too conservative, especially on social issues." He wants to reinstate Don't Ask Don't Tell, he wants to end federal funding of birth control, not just abortion, because it's a "license to do things in the sexual realm."
 
That's why a Santorum boomlet would be fun for reporters, at least. That social conservatism is why Santorum has a "Google problem." Anyone familiar with that "problem" can't read (or write) most Santorum-related headlines without feeling slightly icky -- not just obvious ones like the Daily Caller's Will Rahn's "Rick-mentum: Iowa voters knee deep in Santorum," but nearly every poll-related verb, from surging to sliding. With boring Mitt Romney planning a victory party in Iowa the night of the caucuses, the danger of a short and dull Republican primary looms. Santorum could muck it up.