Rick Santorum: Happy Culture Warrior Talks Social Issues

on February 13 2012 3:42 PM
  • Rick Santorum
    With Rick Santorum's campaign on the rise, the culture warrior is pulled toward social issues that fire up the conservative base. Reuters
  • Rick Santorum
    Operation Hilarity encourages Democrats in open primary states to cast a vote for Rick Santorum, a candidate that some say has no real chance of winning an election against President Obama. REUTERS
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The campaign of Rick Santorum is now on the upswing, giving his rival Mitt Romney a run for his money in national polls and in Michigan, where the former Pennsylvania senator is counting on a victory.

The bump from Santorum's three-state victory in last week's primary contests has dovetailed with a national conversation on the social issues that have been a consistent presence in Santorum's political career.

Now, the happy culture warrior's campaign is tangled in the latest advancement of same-sex marriage on the West Coast, the fight between Catholic bishops and the White House over contraceptive coverage under the health care law, and the Pentagon's recent decision to let women serve in positions closer to the front line.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, the social issues that defines your campaign and gives energy to your campaign and supporters was topic du jore for David Gregory's interview with Santorum. Still, the senator rebuffed Gregory's observation.

It's not defining my campaign, Santorum said. I would say what's defining my campaign is going out and talking about liberty, talking about economic growth, talking about getting manufacturing jobs back to the country and trying to grow this economy to make sure everybody in America can participate it.

My campaign is not defined by social issues, he added. I understand the media wants to focus on those issues but I've been talking about the issues of economic growth.

Prop 8 and Washington State

Still, even if manufacturing was off the list of interview topics, Santorum was more than willing to talk about judicial overreach when asked about last week's Prop 8 ruling that may soon bring gay marriage back to California.

Prop 8 was a voter-approved amendment to California's constitution banning same-sex marriage, which had been legal in the state for five months. The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said such a ballot measure violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Santorum seemed incredulous to the idea of a federal appeals court can strike down a voter-supported amendment to a state constitution.

The people of the state of California can decide what kind of constitution they have, he said. What the judges tend to do is say no, were going to bypass the people and we're going to decide what new rights and responsibilities are in the constitution.

Santorum said he would try to overturn any U.S. Supreme Court ruling that granted gays and lesbians the right to marry, like he would Roe v. Wade. As president, he said he would appoint judges who respect the people's voice.

On Monday, he followed up his interview with campaign events in Washington State -- the same day Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Democrat, signed a same-sex marriage bill into law. A star in the social conservative world, Santorum's agenda in Washington, which will hold its caucus March 3, includes a meet-and-greet at an Olympia church with value voters who oppose gay marriage, The Seattle Times reported.

Women at Work

Questions about Santorum's remarks on women and their role in the family, the workplace and the war zone were issues on the minds of the Sunday morning talk show hosts.

On ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos brought up a line from Santorum's book It Takes a Family arguing that radical feminism pressures women to work outside the home. He has also taken heat for his comments on CNN questioning the Pentagon's decision to let women take positions that are closer to combat.

Santorum's remarks are surfacing as he tells GOP voters that he is a strong conservative candidate who can beat President Barack Obama in the general election -- his rival Mitt Romney's strongest selling points for Republicans.

On social issues, Santorum is balancing his rhetoric and position to fire up the base -- bashing the Obama administration on religious tolerance and focusing on strengthening the traditional American family -- and avoid alienating women and political independents who support increasing access to free contraception and are turned off by the culture wars.

Santorum's response to Stephanopolous' question about his views on women who work and have families illustrates the tightrope he is walking in the GOP primary.

He explained that his wife, who Santorum said had helped write the portion of the book in question, felt society ... looked down their nose at her decision to forgo a career in nursing to focus on her family.

All I've said is -- and in talking with my wife and others like her -- who've given up their careers, he said, that they should be affirmed in their decision like everybody else.

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