With only 24 hours ahead of the Iowa caucus, Rick Santorum could not have picked a better time to enjoy the 15- minute of fame so characteristic of this year's alternating front-runners for the Republican presidential nomination.
While only one month ago the former senator from Pennsylvania seemed unable to get beyond a dismal 5-percent polling mark, the latest data released Sunday from Public Policy Polling (PPP) now has Santorum at 18 percent in Iowa, just behind 19 percent for Mitt Romney.
With Ron Paul only leading with 20 percent, Santorum's support now even puts him within that poll's 2.7 percent margin of error, and a Friday Des Moines Register survey marked his polling as high as 22 percent in the final two days of sampling.
Santorum's surge comes just days after a prominent endorsement from Christian leader Bob Vander Plaats, president of the socially conservative Iowa group The Family Leader and a guiding voice within the evangelical community.
Other evangelicals such as Reverend Paul Berube and President of the Iowa Family Policy Center Chuck Hurley have also recently thrown their support behind the Santorum campaign, which said it has collected more donations in the last few days than it has in the last few months.
Santorum's consistent message of family values has special appeal to republicans who place pro-life and anti-gay marriage issues at the top of their voting priorities, and with recent evangelical approval Santorum is now poised for a strong showing on Tuesday night.
Despite being a core component of the party's support base, evangelical Christians had previously appeared only lukewarm about the Republican presidential hopefuls in this year's cycle, failing to actively unite around any one candidate.
Evangelicals, unhappy with Romney's switched positions on abortion and Gingrich's two extramarital affairs, had drifted first to Michele Bachman and then to Rick Perry, but now in the final hours seem to have decided that Santorum will be their man to beat President Barack Obama in November.
It seems the enormous amount of time Santorum spent visiting every one of Iowa's 99 counties might pay off. The former senator has spent over 100 days campaigning in the Hawkeye state, more than any other candidates.
Perhaps because of his familiarity with the electorate, Santorum enjoys the highest favorability rating of any of the other Republican candidates according to the same PPP poll, his 60 percent well ahead of Romney's 48 percent.
Additionally, Santorum's supporters were also revealed in the Register poll to be more dedicated than those of other candidates, 76 percent responding that they would definitely caucus for Santorum, compared to 58 percent for Romney and 56 percent for Paul.
In further proof of the indecisiveness of Iowan Republicans, 41 percent of respondents in the Register poll reported they could still change their minds at the late moment. Santorum, who currently leads Romney and Paul for "second choice" among voters, might be able to benefit most from his building momentum.
For inspiration Santorum supporters may look to the 2008 Republican caucus, when candidate Mike Huckabee enjoyed a similar rise in the polls after endorsement from the influential Christian leader Vander Plaats, and the evangelical vote that gave Huckabee the Iowa victory.
Despite Huckabee's strong showing in Iowa, however, he ultimately lost the 2008 Republican nomination to fiscal conservative John McCain, as some voters in other parts of the country felt alienated by the very same evangelical views that had thrived in socially conservative Iowa.
Many political analysts similarly questioned whether Santorum could possibly attract the necessary support to carry the entire country in a general election, even if he does manage to achieve a victory in Tuesday's first in the nomination contest.