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Surprise! It’s Rick Santorum, the 2012 Republican contender you still haven’t heard of.Every candidate who is not Mitt Romney is hungrily waiting for voters to start hopping off the Cain Train. But Santorum — the former Pennsylvania Senator who can’t seem to muster up more than 5% support — may have the most to gain, if only because he has so little to lose.
As Herman Cain traipses the country, dodging sexual harassment accusations and taunting Gloria Allred, Santorum has been toiling away on the ground in Iowa — even going so far as to uproot his wife and seven children and move them to the first-in-nation caucus state. He is now the only 2012 presidential candidate to visit all 99 of Iowa’s counties — a badge of honour among voters who feel their state has been neglected this election cycle.
Santorum’s hard work is now paying off, albeit slowly. Earlier this week, Santorum snagged a huge endorsement from Iowa Republican Chuck Laudner, the former chief of staff for Rep. Steve King and one of the most well-connected conservative activists in the state.
Laudner, an effective arm-twister, is joining Team Santorum at the same moment that Iowans may start casting a net for an anti-Romney candidate they haven’t tried on yet. Santorum’s deeply traditional family values message appeals to the state’s conservative Christians — a key voting bloc that might be turned off by Cain’s tawdry past.
Santorum is admittedly unlikely to win the Republican presidential nomination. Aside from being unlikeable, he is a bit of a Catholic extremist, which probably won’t fly with a lot of voters. But a post-Cain bump would give the Pennsylvania Republican an opportunity to dictate the terms of the Iowa race, and position him as a real kingmaker going into 2012.
Already, Santorum is tirelessly promoting a far-right social issues platform that has won the praise of religious conservatives, and sets the bar for his 2012 rivals. It includes:
- Banning stem cell research
- Repealing Title X funding for family planning and defunding Planned Parenthood
- Defending the defence of Marriage Act
- Abolishing the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
- Advocating for a Constitutional ‘Personhood’ amendment
- Reinstituting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
- Pushing for a federal law to allow school prayer at certain functions
A Santorum “boomlet” would force the rest of the candidates to address his agenda, which is extreme, even for conservatives. But it would also attract all of the media scrutiny that has so far focused on Cain — and there’s no telling what skeletons Allred might turn up in his closet.
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