A bête noir for liberals and especially gay activists for his disparaging remarks about gays back in 2003, the conservative Santorum was disgraced the last time he was in the national spotlight, when Democrat Bob Casey beat him by 18 percent in his bid for re-election to the Senate in 2006.
But Santorum is ready for that question, telling Wallace,
"Yes, I lost a tough election in 2006, but I defeated an incumbent when I ran for the House. I forced out a second incumbent when I ran for election. I defeated a third Democratic incumbent when I ran for the United States Senate. I carried Pennsylvania in 2000 when George Bush lost it by five points. I won it by five.
So, yes, in a very bad election year as member of the Republican leadership when George Bush was at 35 percent in the state of Pennsylvania, I didn't win. I don't think 2006 is going to look anything like 2012. And if you look at the record, the record is one of accomplishment, of conservative principles and the ability to articulate that and get votes across the aisle."
Santorum is obviously an optimistic sort, and was filled with lots of energy in his first Sunday morning appearance since he was an elected official nearly five years ago. The most news he's made over the past half year was his rebuke to Mitch Daniels, another potential GOP presidential candidate, who said that conservatives need to concentrate on the economic issues, and less on social positions, if they want to win independents and others to take the White House in 2012.
While Santorum was hardly the only conservative to bash the Indiana governor for the audacity of such a crack, it's cemented the former Pennsylvania's credibility with the hard right of his party, or, as he told Wallace on Sunday, the fact that he was "Tea Party before there was a Tea Party."The Washington's Post's The Fix bloghttp://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/post/the-case-for-rick-santorum/2011/04/14/AFhEhpdD_blog.html last week speculated that Santorum can be a player in the GOP primaries since he is versatile in terms of his experience. As the Post's Aaron Blake wrote:
Full-spectrum conservative: While perhaps best-known as a social conservative, Santorum has bona fides in all areas of conservative philosophy — economics, foreign policy, etc. Put simply, he’s versatile. And in a field that will likely have no other senators and correspondingly limited foreign policy experience, Santorum can point to his eight years on the Senate Armed Services committee as proof that he will be prepared to handle an uncertain situation in the Middle East from day one. While other candidates may have tax increases in their past as governor or have not always been hard-line on social issues, it will be tough to paint Santorum as insufficiently conservative in any facet of his record. And he can point to specific evidence of his conservatism no matter what the issue du jour is.
Of course, we're talking GOP primary voters here. Forget about his chances against Barack Obama (not that he wouldn't be viable - let's just not go there yet). Certainly voters concerned about his chances against the Democrats won't be happy to revisit his condemnatory words that lifting antiquated state sodomy laws would sanction bestiality -"man on dog."
Actually the full quote was,
"In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be."
On this issue, Santorum attempted to sound reasonable when queried by Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: You oppose civil unions. You want to reinstate "don't ask, don't tell." Do you think gays have any rights, should have any access to benefits as partners?
SANTORUM: Well, sure. I mean, there's all sorts of contractual benefits that they can — anybody can contract for. But the question is, whether we should institutionalize that in public policy.
And my feeling is that people can live their lives however they want to live it. The question is: what are you going to do to try to impact public policy to recognize particular relationships? And I — my feeling is, the relationship that should be recognized in public policy that provides exceptional benefit, unusual unique benefits to society is marriage — marriage between a man and a woman who are there to join together for the purpose of continuing society, which is having children and raising those children in a home with a mom and a dad.
WALLACE: But you wouldn't give them any rights as a matter of public policy?
SANTORUM: Well, it depends what you mean by "rights." I mean, are you talking benefits as far as rights? I mean, they have the right to be able to — you know, employment. I mean, I don't know what you mean by rights.
What I'm talking about are privileges. Pure privileges of marriage, privileges of government benefits is a different thing than basic right to be able to live their lives as they well should and can as free Americans.