February 20th, 2012
05:21 PM ET
2 years ago

Return of Rick Santorum, culture warrior?

(CNN) - Rick Santorum is sounding more fire and brimstone than a play-it-safe front-runner for the Republican nomination.

In the span of 48 hours, Santorum interrupted a slow holiday weekend news cycle with a series of thunderous claims that included his belief that the president's value system constitutes a "phony theology."

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"Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology," Santorum said.

He also sharply criticized a federal requirement that health insurers cover prenatal care, saying it leads to more abortions.

"Prenatal testing, amniocentesis, does in fact, result more often than not in this country in abortions. That is a fact," Santorum said on CBS' Face the Nation.

The resulting national media narrative is that this is the return of Santorum, the culture warrior.

But top aides to the former Pennsylvania senator are pushing back hard on that narrative.

"He can separate his personal beliefs from public policy," Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN. Gidley noted Santorum's personal opposition to contraception did not lead to the introduction of legislation seeking its criminalization in Congress.

"He never touched contraception," Gidley said.

Gidley wondered why reporters are focusing on Santorum's opposition to same sex marriage when President Obama and Mitt Romney take the same position.

"Why is it he's the only one who gets these questions," Gidley asked, referring to Santorum.

Part of that comes with the territory of a self-described "full spectrum conservative" whose own Twitter page states that "…self-evident foundational truths and rights (are) given by God."

Santorum's bio on his campaign website highlights the former Pennsylvania senator's Congressional record and touts his action on several issues that are critical to social conservatives.

"Senator Santorum wrote and championed legislation that outlawed the heinous procedure known as Partial Birth Abortion as well as the 'Born Alive Infants Protection Act,' the 'Unborn Victims of Violence Act,' the campaign bio states.

In 2005, Santorum led the Republican charge in Congress to intervene in the life of Terri Schiavo, a Florida woman who was living in a vegetative state and whose family was at war over whether to remove her feeding tube.

In other words, Santorum the culture warrior never went anywhere. He's always been here.

For now, the flamethrower rhetoric may be working with Republican voters. The latest Gallup daily tracking poll finds Santorum 10 points of Mitt Romney and well ahead of the rest of the field. Newt Gingrich is a distant third.

GOP strategists say Santorum's tough talk on the President is likely part of a larger strategy to appeal to voters who once backed the former Speaker.

"The opening they see is with conservative primary voters, such as those who had been leaning towards Gingrich. You can certainly see that in Arizona," former Republican National Committee spokesman Doug Heye said.

For Santorum, there is little down side in turning off moderate Republican voters. They are likely to back Romney anyway.

"It doesn't hurt him. Those aren't the voters he's targeting and not ones whose support he's likely to receive in the primary," Heye said.

Instead it's the battle for the lucrative anti-Romney vote. Gingrich once owned a sizable chunk of this GOP electorate with the rhetorical flourish that Mr. Obama is a "food stamp President."

Santorum resurrected one of his own controversial lines of attack over the weekend when he appeared to warn Americans against sitting idly by as the U.S. did in the years leading up to World War Two.

"After a while you find out some things about this guy over in Europe who's not so good of a guy after all," Santorum said Sunday.

Asked by reporters whether he was comparing the president to Adolph Hitler, Santorum responded, "No, of course not."

He added: "It's a War World II metaphor. It's one I've used a hundred times."

Gidley said it was a larger point about Washington.

"Whatever the issue, it seems Washington is taking our freedoms away, bit by bit by bit," Gidley told CNN.

"And the same thing happened to Europe," Gidley added.

Santorum's rise and rhetoric now have the attention of the President's re-election team, which now views the former Pennsylvania Senator as a serious contender.

"I think the idea Rick Santorum could be the nominee is a very real one. And obviously we're looking more at, at what Rick Santorum is talking about and what he's offering," Obama re-election spokesman Robert Gibbs said after an appearance on a Sunday talk show.

Also see:

Santorum clarifies 'theology' remark

Santorum rips Obama on social agenda

Gay sheriff resigns Romney role after allegations


Filed under: 2012 • Rick Santorum
soundoff (144 Responses)
  1. logicnLA

    Rick Santorum will begin a revival of the Inquisition if elected. He is not running for the Presidency but for the head of a religious state. This man is scary and should not be allowed in any office connected with civil law.

    February 20, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  2. Texas Doc

    Go for it man! These social issues are polling so well! Never mind what John Stewart and the liberal media are saying. Your role as culture warrior is what will get you the nomination and the White house. You are the only 'true' Christian in the race.

    February 20, 2012 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  3. FRANK - LAS VEGAS

    It's truly amazing how many lies this guy can tell in one weekend isn't it?!? There is only one meaning of theology, and that's the study of the bible and religion so Ricky, stop the lies already. The rest of America sees you for what you really are and we're not buying it.

    February 20, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  4. jefflz

    Santorum is a sick puppy and so are the people who support and surround him. He has no place in electoral politics and the GOP displays total bankruptcy in allowing him to carry their banner.

    February 20, 2012 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    time to talk about the the issues that make us all uncomfortable

    February 20, 2012 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  6. V in Chicago

    "He can separate his personal beliefs from public policy,"

    If this is true, then why hasn't he? He thinks he is right and anyone who disagrees with his stances on social issues are wrong. He's been very vocal about this. Now, when he sees that most of the people in this country are not as far to the right as he is, he wants to do a take-back and rewrite what he has alread put out there. If Rick Santorum had his way, women and children would be seen and not heard, women would not be in the work place, the world would be overrun with a population explosion. I think it's great that Rick has his faith and it works for him – just quit cramming it down my throat. I feel differently than you do as I believe in science and that the government should not be making personal medical decisions for me. Call me crazy, but that's how I feel.
    Obama 2012!!

    February 20, 2012 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  7. anonymous

    Cultural Warrior? No - more likely the Grand Inquisitor (ala 15the century Spanish Inquisition)

    February 20, 2012 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    What you hear, is what you'll get. Theology.

    February 20, 2012 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. Thomas

    Yes ,
    the Culture of medieval Inquisition compined with K street Lobbying.

    Thats Rick Santorum.

    February 20, 2012 06:20 pm at 6:20 pm |
  10. Veritas

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag, wearing a sweatervest and carrying a bible." - Sorta Sinclair Lewis

    February 20, 2012 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  11. Guess What

    Santorum may not compare obama to hitler, but I will. look at the comparisons and you will see that obama is just like hitler and if you look at the christian comparisons you can compare obama also to the anti-christ, so prove me wrong, because on comparisons and similarieties you cannot, haha, obama has been exposed

    February 20, 2012 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  12. Jared

    As a practicing Roman Catholic, I am appalled by Rick Santorum and the hatred and divisiveness that he stands for. He does not stand for the Catholic Church nor Christians in general. Jesus' message was one of peace and inclusiveness....Santorum the exact opposite. He may be a regular attendee at Mass, but it's pretty obvious he hasn't listened to the message in years.

    February 20, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  13. brobin

    Santorum would fit in nicely as a radical Muslim. Different book, same intolerance.

    February 20, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  14. Bootstomper

    I actually feel sorry for moderate fiscally conservative republicans who are decent people unlike this caveman Santorum. I reall believe it is in your best interest to vote for our current president. Try again in 2016 because this crop of candidates are a complete joke.

    February 20, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  15. Mr. Izz

    "He can separate his personal beliefs from public policy."

    Well, Santorum hasn't proved that he can do that quite yet. His personal beliefs are intertwined with every single comment he makes. The GOP will see if he is a true contender though in the upcoming month. Right now he is in a hole because he keeps putting his foot in his mouth. Shooting from the hip is not something that will help him in the long run.

    February 20, 2012 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  16. Helene

    The idiocies that Great Inquisitor can deliver in one minute are truly a-ma-zing. Iif he did not exist you would have to invent him!

    February 20, 2012 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  17. Larry in Houston

    hope you win in Michigan, Rickster – this way obama will secure the nxt 4 -

    Vote Democrat 2012
    2016
    2020

    February 20, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  18. Seaturtle

    He screams "keep the government out of my personal and faith based beliefs" but seeks to impose HIS beliefs on everyone else! Only he won't fund the programs needed when the "fallout occurs". So typical" right wing nut beliefs"!
    How do these people sleep at night with all of those "voices" in their heads?

    February 20, 2012 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  19. anagram_kid

    Dear GOP/TP, please make this man the nominee. Not only will he guarantee President Obama a second term, he will help drive moderates, independents and all intelligent people away from the party for generations.

    America's choice:
    Obama 2012 or Santorum 0012

    February 20, 2012 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  20. Dennis

    This pagliaccio embarrasses northen italians to no end but at least he saved venice any televised mortification by skipping carnivale this season.

    February 20, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  21. anagram_kid

    From the article – He also sharply criticized a federal requirement that health insurers cover prenatal care, saying it leads to more abortions.

    Prenatal care leads to more healthy babies than it does to abortions. Add facts and statistics to the list of things Sen. Santorum does not comprehend.

    February 20, 2012 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  22. anagram_kid

    Counting down the days until Sen. Santorum tells us how much better off our nation would be if women were not working outside the home...

    America's choice:
    Obama 2012 or Santorum 0012

    February 20, 2012 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  23. Willis

    Lets all say it together "the media did it".

    February 20, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  24. NVa Native

    A religious and social bigot like Santorum deserves the label of "culture bully" wanna-bee. He is a self-righteous wimp.

    February 20, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  25. Surfer George

    This guy proves that Santorum can be found on both ends of the human body.

    February 20, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
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