Santorum Makes Splash on 2012 Field

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 14 2011 9:18 AM

Santorum Makes Splash on 2012 Field

Three years ago, I remember meeting Rick Santorum in a booth at the Values Voter Conference, helping advertise a V-Chip-esque product. He looked as miserable as any ex-politician I've ever seen. A young conservative sidled up as we were talking, and informed Santorum of the new website she was putting together.

"It's called Catholic-dom."

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"Catholic- dom ?" he said, looking simultaneously bored and confused.

"Like Christendom, but Catholic," she said.

I remember this to point out that Santorum is now running for president , and boredom with the life of an ex-senator and ex-rising star has to be part of the reason. His slogan is "Fighting to Make America America Again," which evokes Langston Hughes' 1938 poem "Let America Be America Again" -- a strong, if obvious, play for the black vote. Santorum's trips to Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina have gotten more coverage than five years of op-ed columns and think tank work have, although there might be a reason for that. Santorum's think tank work is not very interesting .

Of course, he's a politician and not a policy wonk. He can have an effect on the race something like Michele Bachmann's, as internal pressure in debates and news stories that nudges the frontrunners to the right. He can provide free content for liberal news sites and blogs, which really seems to be the function of most of the 2012 campaigns announced so far.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.