Rick Santorum is back on familiar ground, seeking redemption and a lifeline for his presidential candidacy in the state that rejected him almost six years ago.

The former senator from Pennsylvania has resurrected his career after a shattering 2006 reelection defeat. Dismissed as a hopeless long shot when his presidential run began, he’ll finish no worse than second for the Republican nomination. At 53, he’s one of the nation’s leading social conservatives, and his long-range future has never looked brighter.

But as he resumes a do-or-die Pennsylvania primary effort this week, he’ll need all his local connections and considerable campaign talents to survive what could be the final showdown of the 2012 GOP contest. Polls show him with a small lead over Mitt Romney, who’d like nothing more than to finish off his main rival in the April 24 election.