Santorum on the Stump, and on His Reality Show

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 6 2011 1:23 PM

Santorum on the Stump, and on His Reality Show

AIKEN, SC -- For the first time this cycle, I got to watch former senator Rick Santorum work his magic on a room of Republican primary voters. Santorum actually arrived a bit early for a luncheon at the West Side Bowery Restaurant, paying for food for around 25 people. (He personally pulled the saran wrap off of the complimentary sandwiches.) The crowd was friendly, and staunchly conservative; most of the people I talked to had voted for Fred Thompson in 2008; all had only reluctantly voted for McCain. They gravitated to Santorum for the reason he's believed to have lost so badly in 2006.

"When you don't get criticism, you don't retract and you don't back down," said Brad Barnes, a local Parks and Recreation employee. "it's really discouraging when I hear someone that represents us say something I agree with, and once they get criticism they back down.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


"Yeah, Chris Wallace tried to do that to me last night," said Santorum, "taking a little piece out of a book, in my opinion taking it out of context, and saying I was against working women."

Santorum was combative (not with questioners, but with the subjects of the questions) and comprehensive -- his average answer to a question was around four minutes. (The only question he dismissed was a joke one about whether he'd be for abortion if testing determined that the baby would grow up to be like Nancy Pelosi or Barbara Boxer. "I have faith in all children," Santorum joked, which was probably the only possible answer.) One woman, warning him that she had a "stupid question," re-asked the question posed to Gary Johnson on Thursday, about what reality show Santorum would like. His answer? A show about his family, which would be compelling because his youngest daughter was born with Trisomy 18, a birth defect, and it would be good for Americans to learn more about it.

I'll write up more about Santorum's campaign later, but for now: How long did it take him to take a whack at fellow Republicans in the field? Not long. Chatting with Darlene Duhon and Nancy Boykin before the Q&A, he challenged the idea that Herman Cain had suddenly become credible.

"He's never won an election!" said Santorum. "And it's not that he hasn't tried. He's run twice, and lost."

Taking a question about social issues, which he turned into a short speech about the Constitution and American exceptionalism, Santorum mocked Ron Paul and Gary Johnson's libertarian views.

"They say oh, do whatever you want!" said Santorum, waving his hands in a manner similar to the way Ron Paul raised them while joking about whether legal heroin would turn everyone into a heroin addict.

After the luncheon, Santorum told me he was more confident about the race, post-debate, having seen some of the opposition.

"I certainly didn't feel like I didn't belong there," he said. "I certainly handled the questions and the issues and had the experience to take on these issues as well as anybody. I argue better than anybody else out there. That's why I'm out there."

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics


The Slatest

Ben Bradlee Dead at 93

The legendary Washington Post editor presided over the paper’s Watergate coverage.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

Walmart Is Crushing the Rest of Corporate America in Adopting Solar Power

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
Oct. 21 2014 5:38 PM Justified Paranoia Citizenfour offers a look into the mind of Edward Snowden.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.