Long­shot San­to­rum joins 2012 GOP fray

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

For­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia of­fi­cially be­gan his 2012 pres­i­den­tial race on June 6, car­ry­ing with him a strong record as a so­cial con­ser­va­tive and a mes­sage of fis­cal re­straint that he hopes to ride into the White House.

Mr. San­to­rum, in an­nounc­ing his bid, crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Obama as hav­ing put the coun­try on a path to moral and fis­cal ruin and for pass­ing a health care over­haul that the Penn­syl­va­nian said runs con­trary to the found­ing Amer­i­can prin­ci­ples that en­cour­aged his grand­fa­ther to em­i­grate here from Italy.

“I’m ready to lead,” Mr. San­to­rum told the hun­dreds gath­ered for the an­nounce­ment. “I’m ready to do what has to be done for the next gen­er­a­tion, with the courage to fight for free­dom, with the courage to fight for Amer­ica.”

“That’s why I’m an­nounc­ing to­day that I’m run­ning for pres­i­dent of the United States of Amer­ica.”

The Repub­li­can, though, has se­ri­ous hur­dles to over­come to be­come the party’s nom­i­nee. The bar­ri­ers range from his crush­ing dou­ble-digit loss in his 2006 re­elec­tion bid to his low name recog­ni­tion in early pri­mary states and the fact that he’s known more as a cru­sader on abor­tion and tra­di­tional mar­riage than on the fis­cal is­sues that are first and fore­most on vot­ers’ minds, par­tic­u­larly tea par­ty­ers who played a big role in the Repub­li­can takeover of the U.S. House.

“I don’t know if he brings any­thing spe­cial to tea party vot­ers in terms of fis­cal mat­ters, but his over­all con­ser­va­tive record should at least deem a look from GOP pri­mary vot­ers in Iowa and New Hamp­shire,” said Christo­pher P. Borick, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at Muh­len­berg Col­lege.

Chris Cho­cola, pres­i­dent of the Club for Growth, an in­flu­en­tial anti-tax group, said Mr. San­to­rum has a “strong record on taxes, and his lead­er­ship on wel­fare re­form and So­cial Se­cu­rity was ex­em­plary.”

“But his record also con­tains sev­eral very weak spots, in­clud­ing his ac­tive sup­port of waste­ful spend­ing ear­marks, his pen­chant for trade pro­tec­tion­ism, and his will­ing­ness to sup­port more gov­ern­ment spend­ing,” Mr. Cho­cola said.

Gary L. Bauer, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­can Val­ues, a so­cially con­ser­va­tive group, said that Mr. San­to­rum has a shot.

“In a field where peo­ple are still look­ing for who the con­ser­va­tive fa­vorite will be, he’s got a de­cent chance to emerge,” Mr. Bauer said, ar­gu­ing that Mr. San­to­rum’s eco­nomic and for­eign­pol­icy cre­den­tials are strong. “I think he could end up sur­pris­ing peo­ple.”

On June 6, flanked by his wife and seven chil­dren, Mr. San­to­rum re­peated the early mes­sage of his cam­paign that the rights of peo­ple come from God, not from gov­ern­ment.

“The prin­ci­pal pur­pose of Amer­ica was to make sure each and ev­ery one of us was free,” he said. “Ladies and gentle­men, that is at stake now more than it has ever been in the mod­ern time.”

That mes­sage and Mr. San­to­rum’s record ap­pears to dove­tail well with evan­gel­i­cal and fam­i­ly­val­ues vot­ers in Iowa and South Carolina. But the jury is still out as to whether he can make in­roads with the more lib­er­tar­i­an­lean­ing vot­ers in New Hamp­shire, home to the first-in-the-nation pri­mary.

“Be­ing known as a so­cial con­ser­va­tive is not some­thing that is go­ing to sell to Repub­li­cans in New Hamp­shire,” said Andy Smith, a poll­ster at the Univer­sity of New Hamp­shire who said Mr. San­to­rum’s sup­port has lan­guished in the sin­gle dig­its in his sur­veys.

“On the is­sue of abor­tion, likely Repub­li­can pri­mary vot­ers are more pro-choice than the coun­try as a whole,” and “41 per­cent of GOP vot­ers also are op­posed to re­peal­ing the state’s gay­mar­riage law,” Mr. Smith said.

Mr. San­to­rum will be in New Hamp­shire this week for a de­bate at St. Anselm Col­lege in Manch­ester, where he will join for­mer Govs. Mitt Rom­ney of Mas­sachusetts and Tim Paw­lenty of Min­nesota, for­mer House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S. Reps. Ron Paul of Texas and Michele Bach­mann of Min­nesota, and for­mer cor­po­rate CEO Her­man Cain. For­mer New Mex­ico Gov. Gary E. John­son is also run­ning for pres­i­dent, but was not in­vited to the de­bate.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

With a cour thouse in Som­er­set, Pa., as back­drop, for­mer Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia an­nounces he is en­ter­ing the crowded field for the 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion. He crit­i­cized Pres­i­dent Obama as hav­ing put the countr y on a path to moral and fis­cal ruin.

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