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Rick Santorum planning 2016 presidential bid amidst crowded field

'America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race,' he told the Washington Post.
Thu Dec 18, 2014 - 4:32 pm EST
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Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 7, 2014. Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Former Sen. Rick Santorum may have fallen out of national headlines, but he still has his eye on the Oval Office.  The Pennsylvania Republican, who came second in the 2012 primaries and was a favorite among social conservatives, revealed his plan to mount a second campaign for the GOP presidential nomination in a recent interview with the Washington Post. 

Santorum, 56, told the Post he hopes his comparatively low profile will give him an advantage against the bigger-name presumed frontrunners who are already taking slings and arrows from the liberal media.

“America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race,” Santorum said. Being underestimated, he continued, “has given me a lot of latitude.”

Santorum, a Roman Catholic father of seven living children – his fourthborn died shortly after birth – is best known for his conservative positions on social issues.  He opposes abortion without exception and believes abortionists should be criminally prosecuted.  He is a staunch defender of true marriage between one man and one woman, and during the 2012 primaries, promised to launch a “war on pornography” to protect marriages and families.

Santorum performed better than expected during 2012, besting well-funded frontrunner and eventual nominee Mitt Romney in eleven states before leaving the race to care for his youngest daughter, Isabella.   Bella, now 6, was born with Trisomy 18, a chromosomal abnormality most doctors consider “incompatible with life.”  Most Trisomy 18 diagnoses are made prenatally, and doctors almost always advise parents to abort.  Of the very few children who do get a chance at life, 90 percent will die before their first birthday. 

Bella has beaten those odds, surviving not just to her first birthday, but through five birthdays after that.  But in 2012, while Santorum was on the campaign trail, she contracted pneumonia – a common complication in Trisomy 18 children – and was hospitalized.  At the time, Santorum returned home to be with her.  Shortly afterward, he announced the suspension of his campaign.

Nearly three years later, Santorum says, Bella is “doing really well.”

Since leaving the 2012 presidential race, Santorum has been busy running his Patriot Voices lobbying group and super PAC. He’s also expanded his activities into the private sector, with a position of CEO and executive producer at EchoLight Studios, a Christian film company.

But now, with Bella doing better and three of his seven kids having reached adulthood, he seems to think the time is ripe for another run for the presidency.

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“We’re just obviously in a better place right now,” Santorum told the Post.  He said that this time around, his campaign will expand its focus beyond the culture wars and try to reach out to working-class Americans, whom he believes get short shrift from both parties.

“It’s very much heart of America, average Americans who have found a place where they see someone who will stand up and fight for them,” Santorum said of his intended base.  “If the Republican Party has a future — and I sometimes question if it does — it’s in middle America. It’s not in corporate America.”

“Part of what I had to do last time was lay out my bona fides” on moral and social issues, Santorum told the Post. “That’s done.”

Santorum is likely to face a crowded field of competitors with similar credentials on social issues.  Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas are all rumored to be considering going after the nomination.  All are strongly pro-life, and all oppose same-sex “marriage.”

Santorum admitted in an interview with Politico that he will face an uphill battle against his fellow social conservatives, as well as against the establishment and libertarian wings of the Republican Party. 

“The idea that we’re going to somehow or another choose a candidate at the beginning of this process and have a coronation, that’s just not going to happen, nor should it,” Santorum said.  “There’s probably 12 to 18 candidates that are seriously thinking about it.  There’s just not enough oxygen in the room. That’ll winnow its way out as we go forward.”


  2016 republican primary, rick santorum