Santorum doesn’t always play nice, but some like it that way

    Rick Santorum doesn’t have a reputation for playing nice. Early in the Republican’s U.S. Senate career, Democrat Bob Kerrey was so turned off by Santorum’s aggressive style that he publically asked whether Santorum was “Latin for a——-.” In the weeks before Santorum formally announced his presidential campaign, he got into a scrape over “enhanced interrogation techniques” with Republican Senator and former Prisoner of War John McCain, telling a radio host McCain “doesn’t understand how enhanced interrogation works.” He also lacerated potential candidate Mitch Daniels, who suggested Republicans should call a “truce” on social issues, in order to focus on the economy. Santorum ripped into President Obama during his announcement speech, saying, “President Obama took that faith that the American public gave him, and wrecked our economy, and centralized power in Washington, DC, and robbed people of their freedom.” Santorum’s confrontational style makes many political pundits question whether he could appeal to moderate Republican voters across the country, let alone a general electorate. (They point to his big 2006 loss to Democrat Bob Casey as Exhibit A.) But to the hundreds of people who turned out at Santorum’s announcement in Somerset County, his willingness to pick a fight is admirable. “He’s telling it like it is. He’s not afraid. He’s speaking his piece and speaking his mind, and I agree with what he’s saying,” explained Joanne Balkey of Allegheny County, when asked why she was backing Santorum. Her friend Hellen Cindrich agreed. “You hear him say things that are too bold for any of the other candidates to say. … I see him not afraid to stand up against people who hate him. And we all know that there are groups and there are people who are just out to do anything they can to stop him.” Santorum’s anti-gay marriage stance galvanized many liberals. A small but dedicated group of gay rights activists successfully rigged Google’s algorithms to display unflattering results when people search Santorum’s name. Santorum is embracing his reputation. He told Good Morning America his 2006 loss shows he stuck to his principles in a climate where they weren’t popular. The Republican has an uphill climb. He registered two percent in the latest Gallup poll, though the frontrunner, Mitt Romney, came in at 17 percent, with a quarter of respondents undecided.

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