Rick Santorum came from behind to beat Mitt Romney in the most recent GOP primary voting polls, making him the current frontrunner in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

But in one, unfortunate arena, Romney is following Santorum's surge, not the other way around. Over the past month, a new web site has popped up on Google, and has been steadily climbing the search rankings.

The site? SpreadingRomney.com, an off-shoot of the site started to protest Santorum by columnist Dan Savage back in 2003.  And for the candidate, and former Speaker Gingrich, such publicity is the last thing the one-time frontrunners need.

Dan Savage Spreads Santorum

Back when Santorum was a Pennsylvania senator, sex and relationship advice columnist Dan Savage went after him for the homophobic comments he made in an interview with the Associated Press, including one sound bite where he compared legalizing gay marriage to legalizing pedophilia, incest and bestiality.

Savage challenged his readers to redefine Rick Santorum's surname in retaliation, promising he would post the best one on a new site called SpreadingSantorum.com.

The resulting definition, a neologism for the by-product of anal sex, was an instant and explosive viral hit, climbing to the top of Google search and, for a time, placing higher than Rick Santorum's own campaign web site.

Dan Savage has since been asked by Santorum and some of his supporters to take down the site and to stop promoting the numerous other sites that have sprung up since 2003 supporting it.

Rick Santorum's attempts to combat SpreadingSantorum.com and sister site Santorum.com made him a media curiosity as the primary race has moved forward, and his attempts to bully Google into changing what results come up first has been only moderately successful.

Savage responded to supporters' angry responses in January by sending this message from his iPhone: Just gonna keep doing what we've been doing since 2003: spreading that santorum.

But for Mitt Romney, and for the other candidates in the 2012 GOP primary race, the redefinition is just beginning.

Romney Redefined

Romney (rom-ney), the SpreadingRomney.com definition reads. To defecate in terror. The site then suggests that users see also: santorum, linking them back to the original anti-Santorum site.

The definition likely comes from the now-infamous Romney's dog incident in which the Republican presidential candidate strapped his Irish setter to the roof of his car back in 1983 on a road trip to Canada. The dog allegedly defecated in fear.

The story has since raised the hackles of animal rights activists and the eyebrows of some voters. But it's not the only reason why the people who founded SpreadingRomney.com chose the definition.

As Jezebel contributor Erin Gloria Ryan notes, the new verb slips in seamlessly with the old definition. Use it as a verb, as in, 'When I saw Santorum, I Romneyed in my pants,

Nor is Mitt Romney the only candidate in left-leaning pranksters' radars: it would appear that former Speaker Newt Gingrich is next on the list.

First there was Santorum... Then there was Romney... the SpreadingGingrich.com banner reads. Now it's Newt's turn.

As with the first two sites, these hosts are asking visitors to contribute redefinitions, with the best one to be chosen sometime in the coming weeks.

Submit your definition of Gingrich and take your shot at Internet immortality.

The Power of 'Sideshow Distractions'

Since SpreadingRomney.com launched about a month ago, the site has risen to third in the Google search rankings, just below the candidate campaign web site and his Wikipedia page. SpreadingSantorum.com continues to be the top result.

Back when Rick Santorum was a relatively unknown candidate, and Mitt Romney a laughably stiff front runner in the GOP contest, such Google results might have done significant damage to their outreach efforts.

It certainly made Santorum a laughing stock on the left after what's nearing a decade of ribbing. But after so much campaign face-time, and so many debates concerning the Republican primary candidates' policy decisions and character, will these sites really have any effect on Santorum, Romney or Gingrich's stand in the campaign?

Kenneth Wisnefski, an online marketing expert, certainly seems to think so, especially given how rapidly SpreadingRomney.com has begun to trend on Twitter.

The more attention such sideshow distractions receive only takes away from politicians' ability to get their message out, Wisnefski told Fox News.

The mere fact that such sites turn up so prominently in Google search adds to their own legitimacy... takes away that of the presidential candidate.

These attacks can significantly impact the integrity of the candidate as voters unfamiliar with search engine optimization justify why these sites are present, he concluded.

Google Defends Search Surge

As for trying to strong-arm Google into changing its search algorithms, the company says there's still it can do to stop the spread of Santorum, Romney or Gingrich if the site keep growing in popularity.

This site has been live for about a month and has attracted a fair amount of attention both on TV and online, and Google's algorithmic rankings are reflecting that fact, a representative from Google said in a statement.

Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com, agrees that site rankings like SpreadingSantorum.com are likely caused more by a perfect storm of Santorum references than it is by a Google bomb where the algorithms have been deliberately tampered with.

As for the rise of SpreadingRomney.com, Sullivan is astonished at the traction it's gotten in one short month, and cautions the GOP campaigns not to hope for the site's popularity to ebb anytime soon.

It's a remarkable gain given that it beat out news stories and existing stories... that are both years old, he told Fox News.

Operation Hilarity and Beyond

So far, Rick Santorum has managed to make moderate gains simply by no longer deigning to draw attention to the site, though projects like Operation Hilarity show his status with left-leaning voters as a perpetual joke continues.

Now that Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have been smeared by Santorum off-shoots, however, there is a chance that all three candidates may end up having their support dented by the effect Google search has on their online outreach initiatives. Certainly, an association as potent as Santorum's surname has come to suggest could make the candidates less serious contenders and more Internet jokes.

But as SpreadingGingrich.com votes to see whether the new anti-Newt slur will be an adjective, a noun or a verb, both Texas Rep. Ron Paul and President Barack Obama have reason to celebrate: neither of them have a redefinition web site to their name.

Yet.