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. Truthman

    logicnLA has got it absolutely correct. He would like to make the Spanish Inquisition a Sunday School Picnic compared to what he would like in America. He'd make the Taliban look like the moderate good guys.

    February 21, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  2. SOUTHERN HOTTIE

    Is this guy for real?

    February 21, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  3. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Santorum was CLEARLY referring to Obama's extreme ENVIRONMENTAL ideology when he spoke. This is simply more lies and distortion by the left and its MSM lackeys in order to smear Santorum. This is their mode pretty much non-stop at this point. Every Republican candidate gets this same biased and distorted coverage. Is it any wonder why fewer and fewer people pay attention to the MSM?

    February 21, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  4. tim12

    if the republicans have santorum as their cndidate. they will have made it so easy for obama.

    February 21, 2012 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  5. jaywing

    Folks, really, let's step back and look at what's happening. The reason Santorum and the GOP are fueling the "culture war" talk is because they have noithing else. No answers for a stronger economy (Obama is beating them hands-down on this one). No foreign policy other than fear-mongering (look out North Dakota, the Canadians ar out to get you). No domestic policy (except the will to bring back slavery, destory the middle class and make sure women know their place in society). No vision of a 21st century nation based on equality, reason, science, education and global dialogue (they prefer a 13th century religious theocracy coupled with a 1930s isolationism). Really, the GOP has litlte to nothing, but a bag of half-baked minds attached to mouths that can't keep from yapping falsehoods, lies and nonsense. If the GOP wants to have a better image, they should nominate a rabid rat.

    February 21, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Truthman

    Can't find my duplicate comment anywhere. So let me try again. I agree with logicnLA who sees Santorum instigating an inquisition. Any in the religious wing of the GOP are either willfully blind, didn't study their history, or are so full of hate that they. . . .

    February 21, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Vader

    [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."]

    ... also known as "voices in my head".

    February 21, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. dreamer96

    Rick Santorum, A K-street Jack Abarmoff Lobbyist buddy, A strongly religious man, who wants America to live the way he thinks it should, based on his own views of his religion..and keeps taking about waging a war with Iran...A country led by a strong religious leader who thinks the whole country of Iran, and it's neighbors, should live according to his view, of his religion...

    Oh and, hey Iran did you hear Saudi Arabia might be getting nuky weapons from China now, they just signed a nuclear treaty....so go ahead Iran, with your plans for a nuky weapons, and all your neighbors will get them too....and that's will make you safer, just how again???

    February 21, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  9. Truthman

    Can't find my duplicate comment anywhere. So let me try again. I agree with logicnLA who sees Santorum instigating an inquisition. Any in the religious wing of the GOP who support him, are either willfully blind, didn't study their history, or are so full of hate that they. . . .

    February 21, 2012 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  10. Andrew

    Man I hope Santorum gets the nom, his religious crazy talk will totally alienate the voters in the middle. His only route to the WH involves whipping up the zealous christian sheep into a frenzy with the speech he has now started to employ.

    February 21, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. Vince

    Who would have thought this redicuous Tea Party thing would end up being a blessing for Democrats.

    February 21, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  12. MeinNJ

    If I wanted to live in a country governed by a theocracy, I'd move to one of countries of the Middle East. The United States of America was created as and should forever remain as a democracy.

    February 21, 2012 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  13. Jt_flyer

    If by warrior you mean mean King Richard the Lionheart, I'd say, he thinks he is.

    February 21, 2012 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  14. JohnRJohnson

    I wouldn't use the term "warrior" to describe Santorum. Zealot fits him a lot better. He's not an ideologue. He's a theologue. A man who fervently believes in what he is saying, to the point of wanting it to be the law of the land. Doesn't sound too bad until you actually listen to what he's been saying. He is a homophobic theocrat who sincerely believes that women should be submissive to men and that being gay is a voluntary lifestyle choice. He thinks climate change science is some kind of liberal conspiracy and that rape victims should be forced to have the child of their attacker. He thinks that amniocentesis and contraceptives should be illegal, because they are both forms of abortion. This is a man who home schools his kids and thinks that the federal government and state governments should get out of the education business. In other words, he wants to bring back the days of the Little Red School House supported by donations of the local villagers. No computers. No labs. No school bands. And, of course, no girls' sports. The man is either intensely stupid, or he is delusional. And the people who support his candidacy are even worse.

    February 21, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  15. mike2202

    Santorum just said Satan has influenced protestant faiths. Check it out on the d r u d g e report.

    February 21, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  16. Wes Monroe

    Everyone thinks Romney should be the guy to take on Obama because he is the one today's polls say can beat Obama. Republicans want to win at all costs. I think Santorum will be our Republican candidate because he is a true conservative of the people. Once he becomes our nominee the polls will quickly turn and Santorum will easily pull ahead of Obama. Obama has nothing to run on............economy is in the tank, gasoline is going up and over half the country wants to repeal Obamacare. You do the math.

    February 21, 2012 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. Al-NY,NY

    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.
    -------------

    riiiight. This loon would be the new Torquemada, leading the grand inquisition into anyone who doesn't follow his brand of thought. Let me set you straight since you clearly are blinded by your zealotry....HE WILL NEVER WIN!!!

    February 21, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  18. WDE2010

    Would somebody in the media PLEASE challenge these candidates to cite specific examples whenever they prattle on about losing our freedoms? It seems a day doesn't go by without one of them stoking the fires of fear and hatred within the teabagger crowd by claiming that we're just days away from communism being imposed on this country. If our precious freedoms have been under such relentless assault for the past three years, wouldn't all the hyperbole you hear on talk radio and in debates about Obama be banned by now?

    February 21, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. Carmen

    Why don't you people just vote for the Pope. Why bother with an underling.

    February 21, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. Woman In California

    Santorum will never be president so what does it matter?

    February 21, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. edpeters101

    Rick and Newt on the ticket! Add in Perry for secretary of state! And maybe Health and education! This just keeps getting better and better,,,

    February 21, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. ingyandbert

    Dream on, Wes Monroe!

    February 21, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  23. Kimo

    Shouldn't we demand to have a President who believes in science and whose education and beliefs are consistent with the 21st century instead of the 19th? He may be a good person in many ways and a good family man but he is running for commander in chief, not preacher in chief. We don't need another President who is told to wage war by God.

    February 21, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  24. Janet

    Is there an IQ test to run for President? If not, there should be. Currently the Republicans would not have anyone who could rate high enough to run and that would ensure President Obama another 4 years!

    February 21, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  25. Bermille

    Cultural warrior of 1300.

    February 21, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
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