After lying dormant while the economy cratered, the elites are back, laughing at you. “Don’t you see how they see you?" Rick Santorum beseeched a crowd in Idaho Tuesday. "How they look down their nose at the average Americans. These elite snobs!” 

Santorum isn't alone in rehashing the old ways of talking about Democrats as cultural monsters -- Romney described himself as "severely conservative" at CPAC because he prevented Massachusetts from becoming the "Las Vegas of gay marriage." That brought derision from many, including Rush Limbaugh, as well as the Santorum campaign. “Gov. Romney going toe to toe with Rick Santorum on social issues is like Ryan Seacrest going toe to toe with Mike Tyson,” Santorum communications director Hogan Gidley told Talking Points Memo's Evan McMorris-Santoro. What a hilarious image! A skinny, good-looking fop trying to fight the heavyweight who is so heterosexual he went to prison for rape? As Mitt Romney might say, "Ha-ha."

But there is a divide over whether the culture war -- universally declared "back" now that the economy is not terrible -- will help or hurt Republicans. Among those who worry it will hurt conservatives is the National Review's Jonah Goldberg, who tweeted Tuesday, "My theory: Obama will continue to spark culture war fights to excite the base he needs to replicate his 2008 coalition." Joining him is the officially conservative but Obama-voting Andrew Sullivan, who writes that spats like the fight between Catholic officials and Obama over birth control will hurt Republicans in the long run. Obama, he says, "will be seen defending the rights of Catholic women against the unpopular hierarchy... and more firmly identifying the religious right with their weakest issue, contraception." Log Cabin Republicans agree: "Governor Romney can win the general – but only if he abandons the hopeless effort to out-social con the social cons."

Others are thrilled by the culture war's comeback. Even former pink-leather-shorts-wearing-model Sen. Scott Brown is condemning his opponent as an "elitist." At the National ReviewConrad Black writes, essentially, We can win this one, you guys.  Associating with anti-Catholic bigotry "would be a disaster for the Democratic party," he says. "A very large number of non-Catholics could get on board with the opposition, if the compromise doesn’t take and if the Roman Catholic leaders and the principal Republicans play it right -- not as a dispute about birth control itself, but as a matter of the freedom of religion and conscience that could as easily be inflicted on any other organization or individual, an assault by the government on the rights of the people." Make it only about snobbery, not about sex, it seems. But Santorum unlikely to accept that advice.