While Barack Obama would probably be able to defeat the always flip-flopping Mitt Romney,  Rick Santorum’s surprising win in 3 Republican primaries yesterday raises the delightful specter of a Presidential campaign that would be more about core values, beliefs and convictions than which man gives the best speech who has the cleverest commercials.

Unlike Mitt Romney, Santorum stands by his core social and religious conservative ideas.  He represents a segment of Americans whose religious beliefs and values are constantly being challenged by an ever-more pluralist, inclusive society that defers as much if not more to pragmatism than traditional religious perspectives.  I can think of no better example of pragmatism winning out over religious doctrine that the widely accepted fact that most Roman Catholics practice birth control.

Just yesterday, an Appeals Court in California struck down Proposition 8 that had attempted to set in stone the traditional definition of marriage being limited to a man and woman.  That effort to limit the definition of marriage, effectively characterizes the culture war taking place in this country between the frightened, cynical, social conservatives and those people more inclined to emphasize the decency of the human spirit over outmoded, outdated ideas about race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.

This morning, the ever popular comedian and talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, began her show by informing her audience that the socially conservative organization, One Million Moms, had mounted a campaign to get people to call and urge the JC Penny chain to drop Ellen as their new spokesperson because she is gay.

Just last week, when at asked why he so vehemently objected to same-sex marriage, Rick Santorum for the umpteenth time repeated his standard “canned” response that if today you allow two members of the same-sex to marry, tomorrow you will allow people to marry blood relatives or even animals.

Of course, the One Million Moms organization knows that a lesbian serving as the spokesperson for a store is not going inspire little girls to become lesbians.  Rick Santorum knows that same-sex marriage is not going to lead to fathers marrying daughters or sons marrying their dog.  These social conservatives are always promoting the culture war with hyperbolic rhetoric to validate and insulate beliefs and a way of life that are quite simply, not passing the test of time.

If Mitt Romney becomes the Republican nominee for President, he and his campaign team will employ practical strategies and messages to challenge Barack Obama’s record and capacity to lead this nation.  If Rick Santorum get the nomination, the contest will not be between men, but between:  fear vs. hope, blind faith vs. pragmatic reasoning, an inclusive pluralistic society vs. white-Christian-conservative exclusivity, the God of judgment vs. the God of love, intellectual honesty vs. blind certainty.

Maybe its time for just such decisive show-down between reasonable, thinking, pragmatic Americans and those who are so frightened of change that they want institutionalize their provincial values, antiquated beliefs and parochial lifestyles.