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Politics

Watch Rick Santorum: He Isn't Going Away

April 1, 2013 - 6:00pm

In recent days, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania shows clear signs of making a second run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.

Despite fundraising problems, despite being dismissed by many political experts early in2012, Santorum placed second in the Republican primaries behind Mitt Romney. Rallying social conservatives to his banner, Santorum took almost 4 million votes (more than 20 percent of all ballots cast) and won 11 primaries and caucuses, including edging Romney by 34 votes in Iowa.

An often caustic critic of Romney, Santorums name quickly resurfaced after the November election as a possible 2016 candidate. While he is not getting the national buzz other possible Republican candidates are, including U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Santorum still retains part of his appeal. Last month he finished third behind Paul and Rubio at a straw pollheld at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

Santorum also spent last week in South Carolina, which traditionally is next in line after Iowa and New Hampshire cast their votes. While most Republican hopefuls are avoiding the special election primary on Tuesday for an open congressional seat between disgraced former Gov. Mark Sanford and Curtis Bostic, Santorum is trying to help the conservative underdog to victory. Santorum endorsed Bostic last week and spent Wednesday campaigning in North Charleston and Summerville.

Curtis' groundswell finish to a runoff spot signals a win for the strength of his grassroots supporters and his robust conservative values, Santorum insisted. We must continue that momentum for Curtis into the runoff election, and I look forward to joining conservatives across South Carolina in helping to elect Curtis Bostic to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Santorum also is looking at another state that holds an early contest to determine the Republican presidential nominee -- Iowa. Santorum will be back in Iowa on April 15 speaking at two fundraisers, including offering the keynote for the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, one of the largest religious and social conservative groups in the state.

Looking at these early events, its clear that the Santorum camp is already sketching up a path to the Republican nomination for their candidate. Santorum worked tirelessly in Iowa, campaigning across the state and building an impressive grassroots operation. If Santorum is going to win in 2016, hell need the same kind of success in Iowa.

New Hampshire is not exactly friendly territory for Santorum. He pulled only 9 percent there in 2012. Dont expectSantorum to place as much focus there as he will Iowa and South Carolina. Still, hell need to improve on his showing from 2012.

Santorum placed a distant third in South Carolina in 2012 behind Newt Gingrich and Romney. But, as Gingrichs hopes faded, Santorum rallied to win states across the South -- Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The conservative Santorum played better in the South than he did in his own region. The Santorum camp is hoping its candidate -- who will be far better known in 2016 than he was last time -- can build upon the 17 percent he took in South Carolina in 2012.

Still, Santorum will find it harder to run to Rubios right than he did Romneys, having taken aim at Ron Paul a few times during the 2012 campaign. Santorum should be able to engage Rand Paul on foreign policy and other issues. Santorums unlikely rise in 2012 was helped by a procession of conservative candidates imploding on the campaign trail -- Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain. Santorum might need a little more of that luck in 2016, though hes certainly better established than he was last time.

Tallahassee political writer Jeff Henderson wrote this analysis piece exclusively for Sunshine State News.

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