- The Washington Times - Friday, January 6, 2012

Bolstered by his unexpectedly strong finish in the Iowa caucuses, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is now the talk of the GOP nomination race. For committed social-conservative voters in the remaining primary states, he may be their last, best hope after Michele Bachmann dropped out and Rick Perry finished a disappointing fifth.

For a variety of reasons, Mr. Santorum has received the least coverage of all the GOP nominees. His candidacy was dismissed by most on the left and the right from the beginning. Liberal media dared not give his campaign any serious coverage for fear of giving credence to his brand of social-oriented politics, while conservative publications such as the National Review wrote him off as a lost cause.

Beyond the incorrect belief that he was unelectable, the media has largely ignored Mr. Santorum because he is - in contrast to other GOP contenders - scandal-free. With only one wife and without any Herman Cain-type troubles, there is little to capture the attention or imagination of today’s sensationalist press. Mr. Santorum is almost a caricature of a wholesome family man. The father of seven children and the author of a traditional-values book, “It Takes a Family,” he has a rather dull personal life.

On the policy front, Mr. Santorum’s proposals rarely garner media attention like the other candidates’ pitches (for example, the easy-to-chant slogan “9-9-9” and the flat tax, among others) because his ideas reflect his serious approach to crafting practical legislation. What works in the real world is often difficult to print on a T-shirt or campaign bumper sticker. Mr. Santorum’s proposals are real policies, not mere sound bites.

Because Mr. Santorum hasn’t received the same media coverage as the other candidates, the public hasn’t had the same opportunity to glimpse the type of leader he is. As former staffers of his, we have.



First, Mr. Santorum demonstrates notable resolve, an indispensable trait for a successful leader. When very few other senators stood by him on difficult decisions, he always stuck to his convictions. Washington is a town that often punishes those who rise to the top or stand conspicuously alone on an issue. Even on the most contentious social issues such as partial-birth abortion and homosexual “marriage,” Mr. Santorum stuck to his principles as he absorbed the slings and arrows of his critics.

Second, Mr. Santorum was consistently one of the hardest-working senators. Very few people outside of the Capitol know how hard he worked. Like most senators, he had a crowded schedule, but it reflected his priorities. Where others made sure to find time for another fundraiser or a chance to glad-hand a dignitary or celebrity, Mr. Santorum preferred to sit down with dissidents from foreign countries or students from historically black colleges.

Finally, Mr. Santorum is intellectually curious and a constant learner. That may seem like a trivial detail, but in Washington, where large egos abound and most members of Congress cling to intractable dogma, this Pennsylvania politico possesses the curious spirit of a student. In contrast to many other senators, Mr. Santorum always liked to study the issues himself instead of relying solely on his staff. On issues as diverse as Iran, women’s health and religious persecution in the Middle East, he was well-read and fluent.

Like all legislators, Mr. Santorum had to register his share of tough votes. As the Senate Republican Conference chairman, he often was tasked with the difficult assignment of gathering support for legislation from the entire Republican caucus. While he mastered the arts of coalition-building and political compromise, which are essential skills for a party leader, he didn’t compromise his principles. His pro-life convictions and his belief in a limited federal government shaped his policies from the time he was a representative in the House to the time he left the Senate 16 years later.

Mr. Santorum lost his re-election bid in 2006, a notoriously terrible year for the GOP. President George W. Bush’s unpopularity and the Iraq war tarnished the entire Republican brand, and Mr. Santorum lost along with five other Senate Republican incumbents. Iowa’s results on Tuesday night prove that his message still resonates with voters and that he deserves a second consideration - from the media as well as voters in upcoming primaries.

Garrett M. Fahy and Shonda Werry worked for Rick Santorum in the Senate Republican Conference from 2004-06.

Sign up for Daily Opinion Newsletter

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide