Santorum downplays contraception in victory

at 09:52 AM ET, 02/08/2012

In his Missouri victory speech Tuesday night, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum devoted a substantial chunk of his remarks to the Obama administration’s decision to mandate birth control coverage with very limited exceptions for Catholic employers.


Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum speaks as his wife Karen, right, listens during a primary night watch party Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, in St. Charles, Mo. (Jeff Roberson - Associated Press)

On Fox News Wednesday morning, however, Santorum downplayed the role the contraception issue had in his three wins.

“I don’t think it was a big issue at all,” the candidate said. “Our numbers were doing much better before this controversy came up. We’ve been talking about jobs and the importance of manufacturing and giving opportunity to people from the very bottom up ... that’s what got us going across this country.”

There were no exit polls in Minnesota, Missouri and Colorado, and very little polling in advance of last night’s voting. So there’s no way to quantify the role the contraceptive debate played.

But former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who generally avoids contentious social issues on the trail, felt compelled to wade into the contraceptive debate in recent days.

And both Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich repeatedly attacked Romney over his past support for emergency contraception for rape victims in the past few days.

Santorum also focused heavily on religious conservative activists in Colorado. Evangelicals are a major segment of the electorate in Minnesota and Missouri.

Now the primary calendar heads out of the heartland, and Santorum appears wary of being buttonholed as the religious conservative candidate. Whether he can successfully expand his brand remains to be seen.

 
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