Santorum Eyes Repeat Run in 2016

The conservative culture warrior sees a populist path to appeal to downscale voters whom Romney "marginalized."

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Justin Hayworth / AP

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the family leadership summit in Ames, Iowa Saturday Aug. 10, 2013.

With a chocolate malted in hand and permanent smile on his face, Rick Santorum traversed the massive Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, stopping repeatedly to shake hands with folks who recognized him.

For the former Pennsylvania Senator, it was all part of a whirlwind, three-day return to the state that shocked the political world 19 months ago by crowning him victor of the Iowa caucuses over Mitt Romney. Since dropping out of the presidential race in April of last year, Santorum has been keeping his name in the news. He founded a political group, Patriot Voices, to keep his supporters energized, and he’s taken on a role as CEO of a Christian film studio.

But another bid for the White House in 2016 has never been far from his mind.

“I’m not doing anything inconsistent with running — how’s that,” he said with a grin as he walked through the fairgrounds when asked if he’s exploring another run. “It’s certainly something we’re going to give a lot of thought to. You really can’t give thought to it and be serious about it unless you put yourself in a position where you have options. And you can’t give yourself options unless you’re out there and engaged in the process.”

(MORE: Social Conservatives’ 2016 Plea: Double Down!)

Already, Santorum is trying to carve out a distinct ideological space for his candidacy, striking a populist tone on economic issues to reach downscale voters he says Mitt Romney “marginalized,” while encouraging the GOP to double down on social issues.

“First and foremost we need to reject this idea that ‘Well, if we just build the economy, all boats will rise and everybody will be fine,’” he said Saturday at a gathering of evangelical conservatives in Ames. “I don’t know about you, but most people I know have holes in their boats. And when that tide rises, sometimes they sink.” Santorum sees an opening for a repeat of his message of economic populism and compassionate conservatism, especially after Romney’s “47%” slip.

Many saw 2012 as something of a fluke for Santorum, who for most of 2011 was an also-ran culture warrior, relegated to the fringe of debate stages and the occasional cable-news hit. But he was all over Iowa in the run-up to the caucuses, visiting all 99 counties in the Ram 1500 pickup known as the Chuck Truck, driven and owned by friend and activist Chuck Laudner.

He spoke at events big or small — most often smaller than 15 people — as flavor-of-the-month, Anybody-But-Mitt candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain all soared and fell back to earth.

He and Chuck just kept driving.

In the final Des Moines Register poll conducted days before the caucus, Santorum was in third place, 9 points behind Romney. Two weeks after Romney was said to have won the caucuses by a narrow eight votes, Santorum was crowned the victor after a re-count put him 34 votes up. But denied the traditional bump afforded to the victor, Santorum’s campaign faltered until after the Florida primary, when he was the only non-Romney candidate left with a prayer.

(MORE: 2016 Starts Early in Iowa)

But if Santorum decides to run again, he’ll face a decidedly more potent Republican field — not the comparative lightweights who ran against Romney — that could include former Florida governor Jeb Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Florida Senator Marco Rubio, to name just a few.

In 2012 he became the last Romney rival standing essentially by default. Yes, he spent more time in Iowa than anyone, but most conservatives there and elsewhere settled on his candidacy only after all the others imploded. And the state that knew him best isn’t rushing to grant him victory just yet. A July poll looking at 2016 caucus prospects by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Santorum in sixth place, with only 6% of the Republican vote.

“2012 was the perfect storm for him,” says former Romney Iowa consultant David Kochel. “A front runner who was (wrongly) mistrusted by the base, and a never ending clown car of weak alternatives. Rick Santorum ended up as Captain of the Clown Car.”

But Santorum, who was the ultimate beneficiary of a coalition of evangelical Iowans, doesn’t see it that way.

“Every race I’ve ever been involved in I wasn’t supposed to win,” he said. “We worked for it. So the idea that I’m going to sit here and make a calculus of ‘Well, can I win?’ You make the calculus of ‘Is this the right thing for me to be doing for the country and my family, and is it going to be a good thing?’”

(MORE: Iowa Democrats Ready for Hillary)

Santorum conceded that who runs — and how they run — may affect his decision whether to give Iowa another try.

“There will obviously be other people in the race, some of whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” he said. “I know that they’re looking at it, and it may alter my calculations. So all of that is what we’ll consider.”

Traversing the state fair, he was something of a happy warrior, in his words, meeting new friends and welcoming old. He’s still surprised how many people know who he is, recognition he didn’t enjoy even when he won the caucuses. He drove more than 400 miles on this trip, attending fundraisers and meeting with activists from across the state. Doing everything a maybe presidential candidate should do in the Hawkeye State.

Santorum sees a “different race” from 2012 if he runs next time, not having to rely on his daughter and a friend to get him qualified on ballots across the country, for instance.

“I didn’t have the money,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the beast four years ago the last time around. Obviously, we’re going to be in a little better shape. We’re organized already just from having campaigned in a lot of states, and a lot of folks are anxious to help us. Just that alone puts us light-years ahead of where we were. And having raised not much, but $20 million, it gives you a little bit of a better base, and we’ll see. I think it will be a different race if we decide to go there.”

107 comments
oldwhiteguy
oldwhiteguy

I think Santorum is smart to focus on a populist approach. The thing that sinks the Republicans is that they have mindlessly parroted the agenda of their Koch Brother sponsors. If the conservatives ever figured out how they can help the middle class and put forth policies that actually did that, they might win some elections. Instead, they waste their time sounding idiotic on social issues and clinging to grandstanding attempts to repeal Obamacare. Unfortunately for him, Santorum still tries to play to the evangelical base to the point where he now has way too much baggage to move beyond Iowa. The GOP has chased all the moderates. Now they have nothing to offer beyond right wing obstructionism.

anti-government
anti-government

The GOP has a tough job selling compassion, since for the GOP (and many Democrats) what matters most is pleasing BIG MONEY DONORS, who don't care as much about people as they care about profits.

Rick Santorum has about as much chance being elected President of the United States as any other far right-wing ideologue who wants to cram his version of divine truth down our throats and call it "conservatism".

Why is the bozo being promoted as a Presidential contender?

united_we_stand
united_we_stand

Why is he being promoted? Because he was vetted and found to be just as much of a good Statist as Obama?  

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

Seriously, Santorum sees a path to the presidency through downscale voters?  I will take the late Mo Udall's timeless analysis "The only cure to presidential election is embalming fluid" over that any day.

JackKnight
JackKnight

Just remember.  Pennsylvania, his home state, didn't want him.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

Even the US isn't crazy enough to elect a taliban like Santorum.

I hope.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

His site is STILL UP:  www.santorum.com


Frothy leakage.  Ew.

youdontknowjacque
youdontknowjacque

If the GOP actually want to get back in the game, I sure hope they have the sense to find anyone in this country who isn't an embarrassment to their party.  In four years the only skirt to support McCain was Palin?  And then in eight years, the roster of people from crazytown?  Hopefully they can actually get their s&*t together... 

seqretsquirrel
seqretsquirrel

>‘First and foremost we need to reject this idea that ‘Well, if we just build the economy, all boats will rise and everybody will be fine,’”


So he wants the GOP to reject their entire economic framework? He sounds like a Democrat.

BlaiddMathúin
BlaiddMathúin

Run Santorum, run! I love the idea of him running!  With views like anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-welfare and pro-religion in government he is a sure fired loser for the Republican Party just as much as Sarah Palin was. The fact that he is contemplating a run, and the fact that there are people lining up to say "he's our guy" only goes to reassure me that we will have 12 years of a Democrat in office instead of just 8. Maybe 16 if the GOP fails to firmly take hold or reality and see that the nation is not a Theocracy filled with Christians who want their religion legislated to force all to be like them!

Tweetybird
Tweetybird

I personally despise this man, yet if he is to really have a chance in the next election, he needs to tone down the hate towards gays. He can still say he's against same sex marriage, buy to demonize the gay community as he has in the past won't work. More people are starting to meet gay and lesbian individuals and see they are perfectly nice people. if he insists on calling them the devil's spawn, larger numbers will vote for the others running in primaries. They are starting to say, "well my nephew is gay, and he seems like a nice boy...." Tone it down, or you'll lose again. 

ShirleyGallagher
ShirleyGallagher

That would be a big mistake for Rick Santorum after that comment post on HUFFINGTONPOST the other day. talking about Boats with Holes will Rise, if the GOP Reject the Idea that if they Build the Economy all Boats will Rise.

A comment that the Bloggers didn't seem to  understand on HP..

Cowbellchow
Cowbellchow

He has a profound disconnect with reality if he thinks his odds will improve. Santorum has no chance of scoring points with democratic or independent voters. Zero. He is maligned within his own party and would possibly net 25% of them at BEST. Republican establishment heavyweights would make it their goal in life to derail him if he somehow got traction and his own words (not taken out of context) have made him a laughing stock on the internet and in the media. Other world leaders have jokes about this man. I hope he runs, if only for entertainment value.

atrusso.phd
atrusso.phd

Is he so delusional that he thinks he has a shot at winning?  Or is this simply a clever way to further build his personal brand for simple reasons of personal gain?

bobcn
bobcn

There really isn't much difference between Santorum and Anthony Wiener.  They're both publicity hounds.  Santorum is ahead on crackpot.  Wiener is ahead on sleazy.  They're both ineffectual and inconsequential.

Maybe if we could get them a reality show (sandwiched between the Kardashians and Honey Boo Boo) they'd go away.

Bananaland
Bananaland

Sanatorium and Gingrinch only do this to stay relevant so they can continue to give speeches in front of Crazy people, I mean conservative groups...and the Media they profess to hate (unless its Fux News) plays right along...

HenryMajor
HenryMajor

When the evangelical base finds out just how small a percentage of the voting public they are in 2016, they'll claim that the rapture is just around the corner, because it'll be like a sign from God. 

LoriPierse
LoriPierse

According to a report this morning, during his presidential run last year, Rick Santorum performed an exorcism on a woman in the back of a van after he spoke with supporters in the parking lot of a Chicago area Walmart. His evangelical base is going to love that story. http://goo.gl/YPGdHX

cent-fan
cent-fan

[Santorum conceded that who runs — and how they run — may affect his decision whether to give Iowa another try.

“There will obviously be other people in the race, some of whom I have a tremendous amount of respect for,” he said. “I know that they’re looking at it, and it may alter my calculations. So all of that is what we’ll consider.”]

So he's saying "If someone runs that I like and respect more than myself and if I'd be more like a disgusting cow patty as President compared to their abilities then I'll think about getting the hell off the stage".



cent-fan
cent-fan

[Already, Santorum is trying to carve out a distinct ideological space for his candidacy, striking a populist tone on economic issues to reach downscale voters he says Mitt Romney “marginalized,” while encouraging the GOP to double down on social issues.]

But Mitt Romney won the primaries.  The GOP had no problem with "corporations first", or at the very least, realized that a "God runs this country" candidate was probably going to play even less.  In the end they were right but "corporations are better people than half the country's population" went a little too far as an economic campaign theme.  "God will find the money if you truly need it" ain't going to play much better.

jess60901
jess60901

F RickHole and his GD Church of Hypocrisy and Evil....

PS: Go, Clarabelle, Go!

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

The same old wine in a brand new bottle. His running mate will be Clarabelle the Clown.

ParthaNeogy
ParthaNeogy

I botched up Udall's quote, which is: Presidential ambition is a disease; the only cure for it is embalming fluid.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@youdontknowjacque For them to get their philosophical excrement together, so to speak, they really ought to try a better diet of ideas.

Food poisoning is responsible for a lot of diarrhea, isn't it?

bobcn
bobcn

@Tweetybird

I find Santorum's bigotry disgusting.  I understand your position but I disagree with your conclusion.  I hope he doesn't tone it down.  He's marginalizing himself -- and people see that.  

Stealth candidates, who hide their intentions, are dangerous.  They can get elected and then reveal their true nature.  For example: the N.C. governor who campaigned saying he wouldn't sign anti-abortion legislation -- and then he did.

DutchessPDX
DutchessPDX

@mantisdragon91 "we believe in everyone in this country" unless they need medical treatment, or any type of actual assistance...no no no, then we don't believe in you. 

seqretsquirrel
seqretsquirrel

@atrusso.phd He's got a shot at winning the GOP Primary. Scarily enough. He won a number of states last time and may have more money and organization this time.

kbanginmotown
kbanginmotown

@atrusso.phd Well, to be fair, Zeke did say that this will be a "Repeat Run" for Santorum (implying a repeat outcome)...

And, welcome to Swampland, atrusso!

Piacevole
Piacevole

@bobcn There's an old joke: a psychiatrist is administering a Rorschach to a patient.  Every inkblot he turns up, the patient identifies as either naked women or some sexual activity.  Finally, the shrink gently asks, "Aren't you a little preoccupied with sexual matters?"

"What d'ya mean!?  You're the one showing me the dirty pictures!"

Weiner and Santorum are both preoccupied with sexual matters.  Now, if they'd be preoccupied with their OWN sexual matters, and let it go at that, it would be simply a little paraphilia.  But, no, they have to get other people involved, too, or have very outspoken opinions about what other people do, or do not do, about sexual matters.

If only they would tend their own gardens, and not worry about things which do not concern them.  If only they would sit down, shut up, and let the world go on without them, we would all be better off, them included.



Piacevole
Piacevole

@HenryMajor It might be a good thing if they were correct.  After all, think how much better off the rest of us would be without them!  Fine, let them be "raptured away."  And let the rest of us get on with out lives while avoiding raptors.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@LoriPierse That's interesting.  I wonder what the Catholic Church would think of that?  In their view, only a very small percentage of ordained priests would be qualified to perform an exorcism, and then only with the specific permission of the prelate under whose jurisdiction it would come.


anon76
anon76

@cent-fan

Or, alternatively, he's establishing a CYA narrative instead of "I'll take your money now, then won't run when it becomes apparent I can't win".

Piacevole
Piacevole

@buffalo.barnes102 It wouldn't be quite so risible if he actualy were wine.  But he's long since soured into vinegar.  Hardly anyone toasts anything with vinegar, although it has its uses.

notsacredh
notsacredh

@ParthaNeogy, there is a backdoor way to edit your post. Copy your original post. Delete the original. Paste your copy and then edit it in the box before you repost.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@seqretsquirrel @atrusso.phd Money and organization can't overcome his basic problem: he's an unlikable cuss.  

If he were likable, he might be able to parlay himself into something serious.  As it is, he's mere detritus.

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

@anon76 @cent-fan He may be doing a Ron Paul, which is to run full well knowing he can't win, collect the cash from his extremist and fanatical base, then spending the loot on himself and his family. Paul invented "running for profit" but nothing is keeping other fringe candidates from emulating his scam.

Piacevole
Piacevole

@anon76 @cent-fan When would that be?  It's ALREADY apparent that Santorum can't win.  To anyone with the least shred of reality-based thinking, it's overwhelmingly obvious.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@roknsteve @Piacevole @HenryMajor I particularly like the "eaten by Lions" route.

It's simple, time-tested, and it's expensive to find enough food for lions, otherwise.  I'm just thinking of the environment.

SamuelAdams
SamuelAdams

@Piacevole @anon76 @cent-fan They believe in Christianity, a virgin birth, angels, and his friend, Romney, wears magic underwear.

Come on - you're accusing ANY of them of reality-based thinking?