Santorum Country

Santorum Country

Santorum Country

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 18 2012 5:59 PM

Santorum Country

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- We're deep in social conservative turf now. In 2008, Spartanburg County gave 34 percent of its vote to Mike Huckabee and only 27 percent to John McCain -- statewide the result was McCain 33/Huckabee 30. Even if the polls are right, and Santorum is unable to break out of third place in South Carolina, this is one of the areas where he'll perform best.

The conference center that held the rally, part of a huge and anonymous block of hotels, turned out to be a good place to spot the natural Santorum voter. Ray Billings arrived for the show pushing the three-baby carriage that held his triplets, Andrew, James, and Caleb -- all of them with initials stencilled on their shirts. He sought out Jim Bob Duggar, the reality show paderfamilias, to chat about raising large families. "I love stories like his," said Billings, holding two of the boys.

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The talk began shortly after 5, shortly after Duggar himself gave an introduction about Santorum's greatness and the other candidates' weaknesses. ("Ron Paul's only passed one bill!") This was Santorum's second Spartanburg event of the day, but I still found it ominous that the chairs, set up for a couple hundred people, were around 60 percent full.

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Santorum didn't pander, didn't have to. Our stump speech was a version of the scrappy "nobody said I could win" speech we heard so much in Iowa. New Hampshire's result didn't matter much: "Fifty-three precent of the people who voted in that primary were not Republicans," said Santorum. I don't know how many people know that!" (49 percent of these Republicans backed Romney.)

The family talk was saved for the Q&A. One voter asked Santorum about rehabilitating drug addicts. "If you really want to do something about the drug issue," he said, "you have to do something about faith and family." On what he would do to defend traditional marriage that no one else would:

"It's one thing to say I support it"--Santorum held the microphone closely and whispered--"and it's another go to out there and fight for it."

David Weigel is a reporter for the Washington Post.