It's safe to say that most, if not all, of the 2016 Republican presidential field will oppose raising the federal minimum wage. It's also safe to say that the entire Democratic field — such as it is — will support raising the minimum wage. That's why Rick Santorum's position on the issue could be an important part of the 2016 GOP debate.

Santorum, who says he will decide whether to run in the next few months, argues that such a small percentage of Americans actually make the minimum wage — 2.6 percent of all workers and just 1.1 percent of workers over the age of 25, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics — that raising the minimum wage would not have a catastrophic, or even a significantly negative, effect on the economy. While opposing hikes he believes are too large — including President Obama's proposal last year — Santorum believes there is a "sweet spot" for an increase that would both benefit workers and not harm the economy.

"I've proposed a 50 cents an hour raise per year for three years," Santorum said in an interview Wednesday. "Keeping it in that area provides a floor for wages — a worker protection device — and it doesn't have an inflationary effect on wages or increase unemployment."

Santorum, who voted for federal minimum wage increases when he was in both House and Senate, believes Republican rhetoric on the minimum wage has alienated the lower- and middle-income voters who are key to electoral success. "It's hard to go out and make the argument that Republicans are making that this is going to have some sort of cataclysmic effect on workers," Santorum said. "For me, it's a worker protection issue, and also an issue that connects with the people who look at the Republican agenda and don't see anything concrete that indicates we have any understanding of what folks experience at the lower end of the income spectrum."

The rest of the GOP field is pretty much unanimously opposed to increasing the minimum wage. Looking at the top candidates in the RealClearPolitics average of polls:

• Jeb Bush said recently of the minimum wage that, "We need to leave it to the private sector." While Bush does not oppose individual states raising their minimum wages if they choose, he added, "The federal government doing this will make it harder and harder for the first rung of the ladder to be reached, particularly for young people. Particularly for people that have less education."

• Scott Walker has said of the Wisconsin state minimum wage, "I'm not going to repeal it, but I don't think it serves a purpose."

• Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were asked about raising the minimum wage at a Koch forum in January, and none supported raising it.

• Mike Huckabee has tried to re-cast the issue, suggesting that "instead of fighting over the minimum wage, why don't we focus on solutions that help every American earn his or her maximum wage?"

• Ben Carson has suggested that he opposes an increase and in December 2013 tweeted: "Its important for those in poverty to work hard, even with minimal wages they gain knowledge and skill that will allow for upward progress."

• Chris Christie has said the government and private sector should focus more on creating better-paying jobs than on raising the minimum wage. Last year, Christie said, "I don't think there's a mother or father sitting around a kitchen table tonight in America who are saying, 'You know honey, if my son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all our dreams would be realized.'"

• Bobby Jindal has said he is not "ideologically opposed" to raising the federal minimum wage, but opposes doing so now, while the economy is weak.

• Rick Perry opposes having a federal minimum wage at all.

Given that Democrats want to make raising the minimum wage a major issue in 2016, Republican candidates can expect to be asked about the issue repeatedly in the debates that begin in August. If the GOP candidates continue to unanimously oppose an increase, or even a federal minimum wage at all, it will be important — if only for the sake of diversity of ideas — to have a candidate who makes a different argument. If he runs, Santorum will be that candidate.