Rick Santorum Was A Senator

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 4 2011 9:12 AM

Rick Santorum Was A Senator

George Will devotes a column to Rick Santorum's possibly-not-hopeless presidential bid and the Union Leader runs it -- a nice little coup. Even better for Santorum is the way Will nut-grafs his career.

Santorum had one of the Senate's most conservative voting records and was floor manager of the most important legislation of the 1990s, the 1996 welfare reform, which Clinton vetoed twice before signing.

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Santorum had a very conservative voting record -- an 88 percent American Conservative Union rating. That's a good lifetime rating, but it's nine points below the rating of Pat Toomey when he was in the House. And the rating fell during George W. Bush's presidency, to 70 percent in 2004, because as the third-ranking Republican, Santorum cast some un-conservative votes. He voted for Medicare Part D. He introduced billions of dollars in earmarks, something he now apologizes for . He famously endorsed Arlen Specter for re-election over Toomey in 2004, but this almost works for him now -- at events, he apologizes for that, and conservatives applaud him for recognizing his heresy.

Santorum's lucky in another way. He wasn't in the Senate after 2007, so he didn't have to cast tough votes on TARP or the tax cut deal (which he opposed). But his argument to Tea Partiers depends on 1) apologizing and 2) taking ideal positions on bills he didn't have to vote on. Sure, his success is going to be driven by social conservatives, not libertarians, but he needs a lot of benign neglect to make this work.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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