I have to say, if you take only policy ideas and past history into account, Rick Santorum is arguably the most conservative of the top three seeking the GOP nmination. Ignoring Ron Paul because he simply has no chance whatever of becoming the nominee, Rick Santorum has to be considered more appealing to the base than the Massachusetts moderate with the center left record or the former Speaker whose record is, frankly, erratic. So, with Newt’s trouncing in Florida, is it time for Rick Santorum to be the next and most acceptable not-Mitt candidate?

Some polls are showing Santorum to be leading in Missouri, one of the next primary states. And with no Newt even on the ballot there — he missed the filing deadline — that puts the race between Romney, Santorum and Ron Paul. And Jeffery Anderson finds PPP polling that says Santorum has very high favorables in Missouri, too.

Public Policy Polling, admittedly a Democrat leaning organization, also says that Santorum has fertile ground in ways that Gingrich and Romney don’t.

Santorum is a stronger long term threat to Romney than Gingrich because he has less baggage and is simply much better liked. Santorum is easily the most popular of the Republican candidates in both Missouri (+42 favorability at 63/21, compared to +20 for Gingrich and +10 for Romney) and Ohio (+35 at 59/24 compared to +10 for both Gingrich and Romney). It’s just proving hard for Santorum to get much traction while Gingrich is still in the race.

And Ed Morrissey reminds us that will all the really down-and-dirty campaigning between Newt and Mitt, Santorum stands out as the less vitriolic candidate. Further, it is important to note that Santorum has also eschewed (that means he’s refusing to do something for those of you in Rio Linda) attacking Romney over his Bain Capitol issues, refusing to attack Romney from the left on questions of his capitalist ventures.

As Morrissey says:

The candidate actually making the conservative case on the campaign trail is Rick Santorum. Santorum scored points off of Romney in both Florida debates, especially the last one, because Santorum hasn’t ever backed an individual mandate as a health-care solution and doesn’t have to defend that position. He’s never backed TARP, either. That doesn’t make Santorum a perfect conservative candidate, but he seems to be the only one who’s focusing on the actual conservative agenda. Even if the motivation is to back a conservative alternative to Romney to “sharpen his steel” and force him to follow the conservative agenda, it’s Santorum who is most effective at making that the agenda.

So, with Newt seeming to have arrived at the stage he so often devolves to — that of torpedoing his own boat — will people in the upcoming primaries suddenly realize that all along the stalwart, the steady hand has been Rick Santorum?

Lastly, let us remember that Florida is no longer the deciding factor it once was. At this point few of the delegates have been awarded to any of the candidates and there is still a long road to hoe in these primaries. The delegate count is very low at this point and the contest is far from being decided for Mitt “Mr. inevitable” Romney.

Should we start the rallying cry for Rick, Rick, Rick? Is it time? Is it Rick Santorum’s turn at last?