Some say Santorum is Within Striking Distance of GOP Nomination

Rick SantorumIt was past midnight Wednesday morning when Rick Santorum
thanked Iowans for catapulting him into the top tier of Republican
presidential candidates. First, though, he singled out two figures for
higher praise.

One was his wife, Karen, mother of the couple’s seven children.

The other was God.

It
was a fitting way to kick off the roller-coaster ride that Santorum’s
life is about to become. Where it ends — 15 minutes of fame? Republican
nominee? President? — is anyone’s guess. But along the way, the son of
an Italian immigrant and grandson of a coal miner will be stressing
family and faith foremost.

The nomination battle “has been a political version of musical chairs,” says Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council. “The music stopped, and Santorum now has a chair.”

“For Republicans who want a conservative candidate, he’s the alternative to Mitt Romney. You’ll see more and more people coalescing around him.”

Santorum,
who came out of sixth place in Iowa less than two weeks ago to finish
in a virtual dead heat with Mitt Romney, is not a one-dimensional
candidate. Political junkies whose TV screens were wide enough to find
him on the far right (politically) or far left (spatially) at every GOP debate heard a former Pennsylvania senator and congressman well-versed on topics ranging from immigration to Iran.

His
campaign, however, has focused largely on social issues, based on
Santorum’s belief that family and faith are the building blocks for
everything else. He often mentions “our special child,” the couple’s
3-year-old daughter Bella, born with the genetic disorder Trisomy 18, as
well as their stillborn son Gabriel, brought home from the hospital in
1996 so his siblings could meet him.

It’s a
message that inspires and alienates Americans on opposite sides of some
of the nation’s most explosive social issues: Abortion. Disability. Gay
marriage. Don’t ask, don’t tell.

And it’s a
message from which Santorum, 53, won’t back down — not even in a debate
when he was confronted by a gay soldier serving overseas who had “come
out” following President Obama‘s
decision to end the controversial military policy that had kept gay and
lesbian troops in the closet. Santorum wants the policy reinstated.

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Source: Martha T. Moore, Susan Davis, Fredreka Schouten and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY