The Chase 2012

Santorum says conservatives failed conservatism; says contraception controversy is about freedom

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, now tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in some national polls after his three-state victory on Tuesday, tried to unite conservatives behind his candidacy at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday.

In an obvious reference to Romney, Santorum asked why an undecided voter would vote for a candidate of a party the nominating party is not excited about and said Republicans had to go into November behind a candidate the base could rally around. 

He tied Romney and Romneycare to President Barack Obama and Obamacare and touted Santorum’s blue-collar economic platform and message that the Wall Street Journal called “supply-side economics for the working class,” which has endeared him to voters in the industrial Midwest. 

Santorum has spoken the language of conservatives fluently and referenced that in his speech.

“We know each other,” Santorum said.  “I know you and you know me … we’ve worked together in the vineyards.” 

Santorum also said that conservatives and Tea Party voters were the heart and soul of the Republican Party 

“We are not just wings of the Republican party,” Santorum said. “We are the Republican Party.” 

Further, Santorum, in responding the Obama Administration’s mandating Catholic organizations include birth-control options in their health insurance plans, said that the issue was not about “contraception” but about the more greater issues “economic liberty,” “freedom of speech,” and “freedom of religion.”

“It’s about government control of our lives, and it has got to stop,” Santorum said. 

Santorum also seemed to be heartfelt in saying that it was not conservatism that failed but that “conservatives failed conservatism.” 

It was an implicit warning against nominating someone like Romney. Santorum said conservatives “listened to the voices who said that we had to abandon our principles and values to get things dont win” and that “we hear those same voices today” that say “we need to compromise” and “do what’s politically reasonable and go out and push someone forward who can win.”

Santorum warned against a “hollow victory” in November but he may first have to convince conservatives that he has learned from a decade in which he helped increase the size of government under George W. Bush and a Republican-led Congress while supporting Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey, which still causes problems for him in Pennsylvania to this day. 

Santorum has been on the right side on social and foreign policy issues and knows how to speak the language. He has been an outsider. In a field lacking a true movement conservative, Santorum may be the best “Mr. Republican” option, but he must convince the conservative and Tea Party base that he said is the Republican Party that he would not be another George W. Bush if elected, someone who puts the Republican jersey ahead of the conservative one. 

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