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Hoping for Another Surprise

Rick Santorum’s last stand.

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Santorum also laces into Paul on the issue of abortion. “Ron Paul would do absolutely nothing at the federal level to advance the pro-life cause,” he says. “He can say he’s pro-life. John Kerry can say he’s against abortion. But, again, if you don’t do anything to stop it, then you’re not really against abortion, are you?”

So why are some Iowa voters worried that they’d be throwing their vote away by backing Santorum? “Why do they think I can’t win? It’s because, no offense, all of these pundits are out there saying I can’t win,” he says. “It’s sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

There are reasons why pundits say Santorum can’t win. One is that he’s washed up—having lost his Senate seat by 18 points to Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. Santorum counters that he won two of his three statewide races as a conservative running in Democratic Pennsylvania—first in the 1994 Republican revolution and again in 2000, when he won by 6 points while George W. Bush was losing the state by 5 points.

“Mitt Romney never ran a race as a conservative and won anything,” says Santorum. The only reason Romney didn’t lose in 2006 is that he chose not to run for reelection in Massachusetts. That year was poisonous for Republicans because of disapproval of Bush, the Iraq war, and Republican scandals. Santorum was up against the son of sainted former governor Bob Casey, and there was no way any Republican could have won.

Then there are concerns that Santorum would be a polarizing figure in a general election because of his outspoken opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion. He says that the GOP nominee will be painted as an extremist on those issues no matter who it is. But the left and the media do reserve a special level of hatred for Santorum, because he’s a true believer—former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey once remarked that the name Santorum is “Latin for a—hole”—who is willing to defend his position in detail, perhaps too much detail sometimes.

Another criticism of Santorum is that he was tarnished by the Bush years. Santorum says he has a few regrets, such as voting for the No Child Left Behind Act. Still, it’s much harder to attack him as insufficiently conservative than Romney or Paul. 

Now in the closing days of the Iowa caucuses, Santorum may be cash-strapped, but he isn’t slowing down. Every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day he plans to be out on the campaign trail in Iowa, making his case to anyone who will listen. He just might surprise the world again.

John McCormack is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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