Elections 2012: After Success in Iowa Rick Santorum Draws His Rivals’ Attention

Mitt Romney flew to New Wednesday, displaying his financial and organizational muscle in New Hampshire against the upstart candidacy of Rick Santorum, who was seeking to use his near-victory in the Iowa caucuses to become the standard-bearer of a conservative insurgency.

Mr. Santorum’s challenge is to position himself as a credible alternative to Mr. Romney with little money and hardly any staff. His friends say he is clear-eyed about the challenges. In New Hampshire, the next stop on the Republican primary tour, voters are far more animated by fiscal issues than the social causes that shape Mr. Santorum’s political identity. Photo: McCainBlogette/Flickr

Rick Santorum’s last-minute surge in the Iowa caucus brought him neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney in the first contest of the 2012 race to select a Republican presidential candidate. But it came too late to attract the harsh scrutiny usually visited on front-runners.

As Mr. Romney toured New Hampshire, his campaign pressed its advantage over Mr. Santorum, expanding his advertising from here and South Carolina into Florida, where commercial time is relatively expensive — the kind of move that Mr. Santorum cannot afford.

Mr. Santorum’s smaller campaign struggled to keep up with its newfound top-tier status, The New York Times reports. His aides were busily wooing the leaders of the coalition of social conservatives, Tea Party supporters and budget hawks who have resisted Mr. Romney’s candidacy.

Some of those conservative leaders were now discussing among themselves whether Mr. Santorum could be the one candidate they can coalesce around — and whether he was truly viable against the machine that is Mr. Romney’s campaign.

According to Reuters, in recent days have questions emerged about Mr. Santorum’s stand on abortion, his votes in Congress, and his endorsements of Romney over John McCain in 2008, and Senator Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in 2004.

Richard John Santorum grew up in working-class Pennsylvania, the son of an Italian immigrant father who eventually became a clinical psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Butler.

Mr. Santorum’s mother was the chief nurse there, and the Santorums — Rick is the middle child of three — lived in a small three-bedroom, one-bathroom brick house on the hospital grounds. Mr. Santorum bunked with his younger brother, Dan.

Dan Santorum said he and his friends laughed at his older brother when Rick declared he would be Pennsylvania’s governor one day.

In 1996, when he was a freshman senator, his wife, Karen, delivered a child when she was just 20 weeks pregnant. The baby, a boy they named Gabriel, died after two hours.

“That’s when I noticed a marked difference in Rick,” said Robert Traynham, who spent 10 years as a Santorum aide. “He became much more philosophical, much more deeply religious. You could tell; he was walking with his faith.”

This experience deepened Mr. Santorum’s opposition to abortion, and he went on to become one of Washington’s most outspoken cultural warriors.

He prodded Congress to outlaw the procedure known as partial-birth abortion, broke with a Republican president, George W. Bush, over embryonic stem cell research and pushed for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, insisting that it is “right for children to have moms and dads.”

Santorum is beloved among “values voters” for his stand on abortion, gay marriage and other social issues. But his record is rich in polarizing policy positions and questionable associations that support the charge of “Washington insider.”

For example, his million-dollar-plus 2010 income included payments from a lobbying firm, an energy company engaged in controversial “hydrofracking” and a hospital conglomerate that was sued for allegedly defrauding the federal government.

“This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been in tough races,” Santorum said Monday in Iowa. “I’ve had the national media crawling up anywhere they could crawl. … It’s not going to be fun.”

“People have asked me how I’ve done this, sitting back at the polls and not getting a whole lot of attention paid to us,” Mr. Santorum told supporters in Iowa on Tuesday night. “How did you keep going out to Iowa, in 99 counties, and 381 town hall meetings and speeches?”

“Well,” he went on, “every morning when I was getting up in the morning to take on that challenge, I’ve required a strength from another particular friendship, one that is sacred. I’ve survived the challenges so far by the daily grace that comes from God.”

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