Santorum returns to state that lifted White House bid, vowing to change only tactics


Former senator Rick Santorum speaks during the leadership forum at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Houston on May 3. (Steve Ueckert/AP)
August 10, 2013

Rick Santorum blew a kiss Saturday to the state that lifted his 2012 White House bid into competition, and delivered a campaign-style speech to conservative activists brimming with criticism of moderate Republicans.

“Don’t agree with the establishment Republicans that we have to change our policies to be more like Democrats. But we do need to change our tactics to be more like Democrats,” Santorum said in an address here at a summit hosted by the Family Leader, an evangelical conservative group.

Arguing that Republicans effectively communicated a message rooted in job creation and building businesses in 2012, Santorum suggested that Democrats outdid them in the rhetorical battle for working-class voters. And that, he said, needs to change.

“Not one time did we see someone from the factory floor walk out there and talk about working for the man or woman who built that business and how that helped them and their families,” he said of the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

Santorum, who is now running a Christian movie studio, has left the door open to run for president in 2016, and his remarks here resembled a campaign-style speech. If he enters the race, Santorum’s deep ties to the first-in-the-nation caucus state could complicate the efforts of a new crop of potential contenders already rushing to build a presence here.

At the same time, Santorum would face some pretty big challenges. The potential 2016 field is populated by rising Republican stars with growing national profiles like Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Tex.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, among others. Together, they are a far cry from the 2012 field many Republicans viewed as lackluster.

Mingling with supporters who were eager for photos, handshakes and face time with him, Santorum, outfitted in a dark suit and green tie as he confidently strode around the summit, seemed to be soaking in his return to the Hawkeye State.

“I got here Wednesday night, and people who’ve been around have noticed that I have had this permanent smile on my face for the last few days,” he told the friendly crowd assembled in an auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University. Santorum then name-checked a grill in Rock Rapids and an ice cream parlor in Le Mars, demonstrating his intimate knowledge of Iowa, where he narrowly edged out Mitt Romney in the Republican caucuses, weeks after the initial tally suggested a Romney victory.

Santorum also put himself at odds with Republicans who have called for the party to place less of an emphasis on social issues. He called on conservatives to redouble their efforts in the culture wars of the day.

“They say we need to talk less about the culture, because we’re losing,” Santorum said. “It’s a losing issue for us and therefore we need to talk less. Now, the people that do this are the very same people who never wanted to talk about culture in the first place.”

Hundreds of activists gathered here for a full day of speeches. Inside the building, conservative groups set up booths. “Less government. More fun,” read a poster on one of them. Outside, about a dozen protesters held up signs. “Intolerance is not a family value,” a brightly colored one said.

The mood was subdued in the morning but picked up in the afternoon, as several speakers talked in urgent terms about the state of the country.

“We are at war for the heart and soul of this country,” declared Joe Miller, the 2010 tea-party-backed Alaska Senate candidate who has filed papers to run again in 2014.

Cruz raised the energy level with a speech about promoting growth and defunding Obamacare. Before that, Rafael Cruz, his father, brought the House down with a rousing address about leaving Cuba.

Some of the speakers expressed strict opposition to gay marriage, while others steered clear of discussing it. The confab came just weeks after the Supreme Court cleared the way for same-sex marriages in California and struck down a key element of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, handing gay marriage advocates big victories.

“We have to stand for what’s right and what’s best for America,” Santorum, who opposes gay marriage, said in an interview. “And what’s best for America is strong families and healthy marriages.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), who spoke at the summit, said in an interview that he doesn’t know yet whether the Supreme Court decision has altered the debate about same-sex marriage within the GOP, but he’s been hearing less about the issue in recent years.

“I don't know whether it’s changed much, but I can tell you that probably in the last year, that issue has come up less in my town meetings than in it did in 2009 and 2010,” said Grassley.

The summit unfolded during a weekend when the 2016 campaign was not far from the minds of Iowa voters. Emily’s List, a group that works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, held its first “Madam President” campaign town hall meeting in the state Friday. The effort is designed to help elect the first female president, with an eye on former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton, a possible candidate.

What about Santorum’s presidential ambitions or his timeline for making a decision?

“Nothing new” to report, he said with a smile.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=politics, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, defaultsort=reverseChronological, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments