- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 8, 2006

PITTSBURGH — Sen. Rick Santorum, a 12-year veteran of the Senate and the third-ranking Republican, lost his re-election bid last night to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., in a major blow to the Republican Party.

The firebrand conservative who has led the charge in Washington against abortion and same-sex “marriage” called Mr. Casey to concede the election slightly before 10 p.m.

“This just was a little too steep of a mountain to climb,” he told a roomful of supporters soon afterwards, with his wife, Karen, and six tearful children by his side. “We will walk away from this job with nothing, nothing but thanks for all of the wonderful people of this state.”

Earlier in the evening, Mr. Casey was projected as the winner by the major networks and the Associated Press. By late last night, with 43.4 percent of the precincts reporting, he was winning 60.4 percent to 39.6 percent, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS).

Democratic Gov. Edward G. Rendell also secured a second term, beating his Republican opponent, former Pittsburgh Steeler and sportscaster Lynn Swann. Mr. Rendell was winning 62.2 percent to 37.8 percent late last night, according to the DOS.

Mr. Santorum thanked God for his opportunity to serve and said Mr. Casey is “a fine man” who will do “a fine job” in the Senate. He hushed supporters in the crowd who started booing when he said that.

At his celebration speech from his election headquarters in his hometown of Scranton, Mr. Casey thanked Mr. Santorum for what he said was a gracious phone call.

“He talked about one thing, he talked about the future, and I appreciate that because American politics more than ever … has to be as much about healing as it is about debates on issues,” Mr. Casey said, his wife and four daughters at his side.

Polls had long showed Mr. Santorum trailing Mr. Casey, the state treasurer and son of a popular former governor, and Democrats were tremendously energized to sweep this race as well as the governor’s race.

The Santorum camp had maintained until the end that its top-notch ground operation could turn out enough supporters to send the senator back to Washington. In the end, however, it wasn’t enough. Mr. Casey capitalized on voters’ dissatisfaction with President Bush, Republican leadership and the war in Iraq, telling them that Mr. Santorum is a foot soldier in the president’s army and that it was past time for a change.

Mr. Santorum said he ignored advice to only talk “about the pork” he delivered for Pennsylvania and instead focused on national security, telling voters that he was the one to aggressively confront impending threats from North Korea, Iran and elsewhere.

He said he wouldn’t change a word of his campaign.

“What senators and leaders are supposed to do is talk about things our country confronts in the future,” he said.

Mr. Santorum thanked his volunteers as he looked back on his Senate career, telling them he had “stood for” the family and “the most vulnerable, particularly those in the earliest stages of life and at the end of life.”

The 48-year-old didn’t say what his future plans are, except to spend more time with his family and to continue to talk about national-security issues. Several supporters screamed “Santorum for President” as he left the room.

Mr. Casey is the son of late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey and is known for his pro-life, anti-gun-control views.

At midday, Mr. Santorum told Fox News that he had “very serious concerns” about voting-machine problems across the state. At least two counties — Lancaster and Lebanon, both Republican strongholds — extended their voting by one hour, to 9 p.m., because of an initial glitch with the touch-screen voting machines that delayed the start of voting, said Leslie Amoros, spokeswoman for the DOS. But Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes said that most problems stemmed from human error and that most problems were worked out in a timely manner.

There were several reasons for Mr. Santorum’s struggle here. Through the years, the two-term senator has evoked increasingly visceral reactions from Democrats for his strident statements and stance on everything from embryonic stem-cell research and abortion — he believes life begins at conception — to proper parenting and the war in Iraq.

Plus, “he’s carrying the baggage of the Bush administration,” said University of Pennsylvania political science professor Jack Nagel. Mr. Bush has just a 36 percent job-approval rating here, according to the latest numbers by SurveyUSA.

“The base is obviously enthused over their perception of the mistakes the Bush administration has made,” Ardmore resident Terry Wimmer said Saturday, citing the Iraq war, the belated response to Hurricane Katrina and tax cuts “for the wealthy.”

Mr. Santorum made no apologies, insisting to the very end that true leadership means not backing down, even when it’s unpopular. “You either stand up for what you believe in or you get out of the way and let other people stand up,” he said Sunday in Lancaster.

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