Rick Santorum Has Blemishes on Conservative Record

Associated Press + More


"On spending, Santorum has a mixed record and showed clear signs of varying his votes based on the election calendar," the group said in its review of his time in Congress. "His record is plagued by the big-spending habits that Republicans adopted during the Bush years of 2001-2006."

The club gave high marks to Santorum on taxes, noting that he voted for the Bush administration's tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

As he vies for the GOP nomination, Santorum has tried to rally support from the religious and social conservatives who tend to dominate Republican caucuses and primaries in many states. Such support helped fuel his late surge in Iowa.

He's called himself the true conservative of the GOP presidential pack, citing his support for a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto to keep federal spending in line.

"The biggest issue in this campaign is going to be the size and scale of government," Santorum said Tuesday in Iowa.

In a congressional career that began with a House victory in 1990 and ended with a nearly 18-point loss in a Senate election in 2006, Santorum presented a more moderate face. Pennsylvania cannot be taken for granted by either party, and conservative candidates there often must appeal to more moderate voters to win.

Santorum campaigned in Pennsylvania as a "compassionate conservative" — a theme George W. Bush used in his presidential campaign — and boasted about his ability to bring home federal money.

On social issues such as abortion and gay rights, Santorum has held firmer to the conservative line.

He favors a constitutional abortion ban and opposes abortion even in cases of rape. In Congress, he successfully pushed a bill to ban a late-term abortion procedure. He's said one of the first steps he'd take as president would be to ban federal funding for abortion.

But Santorum has faced questions over remarks he made during the height of his 1996 re-election race supportive of a ban on abortions that included exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother. He recently said the measure was a compromise that he supported because it represented a positive step towards a wider ban.

On health care, Santorum wants to repeal Obama's sweeping overhaul package. He favors a market-based approach, saying stronger government control of health care will inevitably lead to bureaucrats making decisions about who gets care.

He's also drawn a hard line on foreign policy and terrorism, saying America should act as a powerful moral force across the globe to fight for freedom. He's accused Obama of engaging and coddling rather than confronting the nation's enemies.

He blames Obama for not doing more to prevent the Iranian government from building a nuclear weapon, saying Obama has risked turning the U.S. into a "paper tiger." Santorum recently called Obama's policy toward radical Islamists "nothing but appeasement."

  • See pictures of 2012 GOP candidates
  • Read new economic data points to hope in 2012
  • Check out pictures of the Obamas behind the scenes