Rick Santorum Tests a Populist Message

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

For a guy with such a strong showing in the 2012 primaries, Rick Santorum gets surprisingly little coverage in the presidential field.  Yesterday, however, The Iowa Republican reported that Santorum was upping his ground game in Iowa by adding State Rep. Walt Rogers to his campaign staff.

In and of itself, this would be interesting (it shows Santorum is focusing on urban turnout, where Romney edged him out in the state the last go round), but the real story was this paragraph from his press release:

Like me, Walt understands the importance of not just being a Party of business-owners, but being a Party that fights for the worker and hard-working families.  Our movement cannot win unless we recognize that the 90% of Americans who do not own their own business and the 70% of Americans who do not have a college degree need a champion.  I am prepared to fight for them and I am thrilled to have Walt Rogers standing side-by-side with me in Iowa.

This is probably the best description of Republicans’ economic problem I have heard to date:  Republicans have made a habit of running on “jobs and the economy” (at no time more so than in 2012), yet have lost two consecutive presidential elections.  In 2013, an APIA election study pointed out that this may be a problem of emphasis: GOP candidates always focused on the needs of “job creators” (i.e. business owners), rather than the 90 percent of people who work for them.  With a strategy like that, it’s not hard to see how Democrats have run away with the Presidency.

Santorum’s populist campaign didn’t stop with economics, however.  This past weekend Santorum made the case for teaching that rights come from God rather than government (starts at the 0:47 mark):

The left cannot be successful in a country of God-given rights. It can’t. Because they want to be the purveyor of rights, and if God is the purveyor of rights, then they lose. We have an obligation to educate, to form, within our churches to preach, within our families to educate, and to fight within our schools.

In just a few days, Rick Santorum has managed to appeal to two-thirds of Reagan’s proverbial three-legged stool.  All he needs now is a foreign policy issue, and he’ll have a populist home run!

Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.