Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 23, 2014

Rick Santorum Rallies Like a Candidate

Rick Santorum Rallies Like a Candidate

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

TAMPA, Fla. — This week, it’s hard not to wonder whether former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) keeps thinking, “It should have been me.”

As Mitt Romney’s final major primary foe, Santorum’s shoestring campaign surprised Republicans with its longevity. Begrudgingly, he dropped out in April and, several weeks later, backed the presumptive nominee.

“We prayed a lot about what to do after the campaign trail,” Santorum told his supporters today at a rally for Patriot Voices, his new national conservative grass-roots organization. “And who would we be if we did not do our share — more than our share?”

National news outlets have labeled Santorum the latest hero of the Christian Right, and his rally attracted top movement leaders and future office holders alike. On Tuesday night, Santorum delivered a prime time talk focused on social issues — a speech that only briefly mentioned the  nominee.

“Fifty-one percent of the people in that room did not stand up,” Santorum recalled about his speech. “Ninety-five percent of the people in that room stood up. We are a pro-life party!”

That’s a pretty good showing for a guy who hasn’t held office since he lost re-election by 18 points six years ago in Pennsylvania.

In the next-door tent at Liberty Plaza, Wisconsin Republicans bounced to a boisterous Bavarian band. A few minutes earlier, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the GOP vice presidential nominee, surprised his fellow cheeseheads, who were dining on a smorgasbord of bratwurst and beer.

For Santorum, it’s perhaps symbolic that the glitzier party next door was heard in the background while his supporters noshed on hot dogs. As a candidate, Santorum constantly battled Romney’s much deeper pockets and expansive campaign infrastructure. His appeal to blue-collar, conservative voters propelled him from primary to primary.

As Santorum praised marriage, his daughter, Bella, and the sanctity of life, the band played on next door, complete with yodeling. He paced back and forth in a blue blazer, sans his famous sweater vests, forgoing notes. Again, Santorum mentioned Romney only a handful of times.

The one-time candidate declared he will exercise his grass-roots support for Romney by focusing on the following states: North Carolina, Ohio, Colorado, Michigan and, of course, Iowa.

“We decided to start there because we had a lot of support in those states,” Santorum explained.

While that may be true, it won’t hurt Santorum to keep his infrastructure intact in early primary states like some of the aforementioned.

And the band played on.

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