Who Is Rick Santorum?

Emboldened GOP hopeful will have to defend his strongly conservative history.

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If 30,000 Iowans could have their way, Rick Santorum would be the next president of the United States. But, for many who haven't been following the Republican presidential race that closely, the weekend leading up to the Iowa caucuses might have been the first time they heard the former Pennsylvania Senator's name. With a 16-year career as a congressman, senator and presidential candidate, Santorum has a long track record of statements on issues that may prove controversial to a general electorate.

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It's one thing to campaign for deeply conservative votes in a mid-West caucus, it's another to make your pitch to run-of-the-mill Republicans and right-leaning independents.

So as Santorum elevates his White House run from a shoestring, pickup truck tour to a no-joke national campaign he could find himself explaining some of his more controversial positions staked out over years of conservative politics.

Family man

Santorum is a first generation American of Italian heritage, a strict Catholic, and the father of seven children. Much of Santorum's politics are based on his deep beliefs in the family structure. In his 2005 book, It Takes a Family, he argues against liberal social values and feminism, contending that the two have dramatically damaged society by devaluing family. Government, Santorum says, has the right to intervene in people's lives to promote the idea of strong families.

In an interview with NPR, Santorum explained his stance, saying, "[Liberals] have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. ... I think most conservatives understand that individuals can't go it alone."

Not fond of gay people

In a 2003 interview with the Associated Press, Santorum outlined his views on homosexuality like this: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

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Santorum later said that he has no problem with gay people, just homosexual acts. But he stuck with the anti-gay rhetoric throughout his campaign in Iowa. He explained why society can't redefine marriage to include a union between two men or two women by using an aqueous metaphor. "It's like saying this glass of water is a glass of beer," he said. "Well, you can call it a glass of beer, but it's not a glass of beer. It's a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is."

Scientist

During the formation of the educational reform No Child Left Behind Act, then-Sen. Santorum proposed the so-called "Santorum Amendment" which mandates that creationism, or "intelligent design," be taught alongside evolution in public schools. He told the Washington Times in 2002 that intelligent design "is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes."

War hawk

In 2005, just as the U.S. was fighting a bitter insurgency in Iraq, Santorum worked to potentially start another war—this time with Iran. He introduced the Iran Freedom Support Act that allocated $10 million for regime change in Iran. Santorum has kept up his positions against Iran since then, stating firmly that his administration would use force to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. "We will degrade [Iran's nuclear] facilities through airstrikes, and make it very public that we are doing that," he told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday.

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He also told supporters at a campaign event in October that he "candidly" thinks it's "wonderful" when Iranian scientists turn up dead. Likewise, he prefers the term "War With Radical Islam" instead of "War on Terror."

Defeated Senator

Rick Santorum had a rough election in 2006. His loss to Bob Casey Jr. for his Pennsylvania Senate seat was the largest margin of defeat ever for an incumbent Republican senator in Pennsylvania. During the election, Santorum's residency was called into question, as he told Meet the Press that he spent "maybe a month a year, something like that" at his home in Pennsylvania, preferring his residence in Virginia. Towards the end, Santorum focused his campaign heavily on the threat of radical Islam, prompting Mr. Casey to respond, "No one believes terrorists are going to be more likely to attack us, because I defeat Rick Santorum. Does even he believe that?" In one speech, he linked the Battle of Vienna, fought on September 11, 1683, with the events of September 11, 2011 and likened the War on Terror to the Crusades.

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