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. Debbie

    Cullture warrior? LOL Flat out nut case. Last year it was Palin this year its Santorum.

    February 20, 2012 07:31 pm at 7:31 pm |
  2. Obama2012forsure

    The latest gab is about Santorum. Most of the news orgs have already pulled out his craziest comments. He gets super whiny when asked to comment about the same too. The super pacs would have a field day with this nutjob as far as racism, women's rights, and even privacy. The GOP can forget it this year.

    I think allot of this comes down to honesty. President Obama has it.......if the same pursuits could just show up for the Congressional elections we would all see some serious new faces.
    Edit Reply

    February 20, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  3. edwardo

    If this cleric gets in the WH, I'm outta this country. I'm not living under Taliban rule.

    February 20, 2012 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  4. livingston

    Santorum. Culture warrior. HAHAHAHAHAHA!
    This man (and I use the term loosely) is as crazy as an outhouse rat! I'm from Pa and we have had first hand experience with this person as an elected official. I think it should be a rule that if your own state rejects you then you shouldn't try to run for President of the United States! There is a reason we kicked him to the curb! For goodness sake we're Pennsylvania – we will give anyone a second chance. Read His Record.

    February 20, 2012 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  5. evensteven

    Huh? President Obama is taking our freedoms away and yet Santorum wants to tell a woman what she can or cannot do with her body? This is double talk.

    He states "…self-evident foundational truths and rights (are) given by God."

    Yes, and the fundamental truth and right given by God is FREE WILL.

    Santorum, you may not respect the choices other people make with their bodies, but respect the right of free will the good Lord gave them over their bodies. If a woman wants an abortion that is her choice; let her work it out with God in their own way and time.

    February 20, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  6. Charlie from the North

    Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!

    Great where is it then?

    February 20, 2012 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  7. scottf

    Stone Age Rick will be " clarifying" a lot of statements as the campaign moves on. He is a typical loose lipped right winger who panders to the right wing trained seals.

    February 20, 2012 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  8. uhytela

    This just proves that republicants are idiots and only care about social issues and could care less about the economy.

    Well I 'm voting for OBAMA

    February 20, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  9. Butter My Butt And Call Me a Biscuit

    I am a fire-breathing, bleeding-heart, tree-hugging Democrat with a Capital D and am proud of it. Rick Santorum would be such a gift.....

    February 20, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  10. mirrorlogic

    better a religious principled candidate...then one that hides his real objectives. What is Willard Mitt spending all that Wall St capital to really accomplish?

    Beware of an Oligarchy...beware of someone with so much MONEY seeking to balance it with so much POWER.

    February 20, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  11. Aaron

    He sounds like a male version of Palin...spreading inflammatory half-truths and outright lies. However, he's still yet to top that heifer inciting the crowds to scream Obama after she screamed who's the terrorist during the 2008 election. Class acts neither one of them are.

    February 20, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  12. Geoffrey Hamilton

    "I think the idea Rick Santorum could be the nominee is a very real one" Yeah, a really scary one!!! If he does though I'm with you Obama camp...

    conservative voter

    February 20, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  13. ChubbJack

    I would really like to hear Santorum talk about the real issues America face today. Such as, policies for creating jobs, building the economy, and foreign affairs. Instead of skirtting around with issues on conception and gay rights. The later are easy topics for Santorum and being POTUS requires a lot more complicated and thought provoking topics. Stop buying the easy issues from Santorum by consistantly addressing conception, birth control, and gay rights issues. But, rather ask him about Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, jobs, and what would his budget be.

    February 20, 2012 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. Ron

    Women should shut up, spread their legs, clean the house, and take care of the children!! That's a Rick Santorum America. Go ahead ladies, race to the polls to vote for him.

    February 20, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  15. Mary k

    If Santorum thinks that it is so outrageous that the President is imposing his beliefs on religious organizations by making their insurance plans cover birth control, how does he not see how the religious organizations are outrageous to impose their beliefs on the masses on many different topics, marriage equality, closing defunding Planned Parenthood as a whole because they disagree with abortion services, talks of mandating all pregnancies be carried to term....it is these religious organizations that take the far more extreme and imposing stances in this country today!

    February 20, 2012 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  16. Fair Taxes

    So Rich Santorum has decided to upgrade from class warefare to religious warefare. There's nothing you can't get some religous zealot to do when their eternal soul is at stake.

    February 20, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  17. Jaun in El Paso

    It simple amazes me how fast the liberal media attack dogs go after the front runner, but this is embaaaaarasing! Is this the best they can do? Use the Culture Warrior trash to counter Obamas' Class Warrior status. Can't wait to see what total bull they are going to push on us in the next few months.

    February 21, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  18. Expat American

    Rick Santorum has visions of sugar plums and Torquemada dancing around in his head.

    Be very afraid, America.

    February 21, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  19. billy davis

    Yes, Santorum knew he was trying to compare our POTUS to Hitler as many in the GOP has done. What they don't get is it's laughable to try to compare the black guy in the White House to a guy that pushed for an Aryan Nation that included no blacks. The GOP " We can come of with some really big lies"

    February 21, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  20. Lindsey

    Santorum doesn't understand that by saying he's for "smaller government", that means staying OUT of peoples' bedrooms and bodies. Or maybe he's just a liar.

    Do you people all know that Santorum has stated publicly and prominently (look it up!) that he emphatically does NOT believe that American adults are entitled to ANY privacy, not even in their own homes? Does that give you a warm fuzzy?

    It sure shouldn't.

    February 21, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  21. Rsprings

    The problem is Santorum is letting the Democrats and their lap dog media control his message. Stop responding to media interviews where they continue to drag him down the path they want. He needs to start on the economy, foreign policy, energy policy etc. Stand up..if he can't stand up to he media he should not be running for President.

    February 21, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  22. diridi

    This idiot is a nonsense, and disgrace to America. So are all Republicans.

    February 21, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  23. Dave3000

    Republican rhetoric is so transparent…They either play on religion or appeal to the greed of tax payers to build their base…but they do nothing for the "common good" in an effort to build a decent quality of life for the average American…I'll never understand the part of society that would actually admit proudly to being a Republican…The country is not interested this time in abortion, birth control, or gay marriage and certainly not more of the failed "Trickle Down" economic policies they have pushed for years...We all see the result.

    February 21, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  24. ourjungle

    Our Nation is still crawling out of a devastating recession,and the GOP presidential choice has come down to a Leader that has very strong leanings to regulate our Bedrooms, or a Leader that has very strong leanings to regulate our Economy. One has a aspirin in his hand,and the other has a calculator in his hand.

    February 21, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  25. mk1

    I really like the fact that after winning those three states a week ago or so, he said all he was going to talk about were jobs jobs jobs. Well, I guess he forgot that. Figures. This man truly is creepy and extremely scary. I thought Republicans wanted smaller government yet all they want to do is totally control us in every way through government action. As I said, creepy and scary.

    February 21, 2012 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
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