Rick Santorum Jumps In: Is He The True Conservative?

Jun 6, 2011 2:58pm

ABC News' Susan Joan Archer (@TheOnlyArcher) reports:

SOMERSET, Pa. — Today Rick Santorum officially kicked off his campaign for President of the United States on the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse in Western Pennsylvania.

Introduced by his wife, Karen and surrounded by his seven children, Santorum decried the direction he believes the President has taken the country in. Slamming the administration's record of spending and positions on social issues, Santorum said, "He's not just devalued our currency, he's devalued our culture."

A crowd of about 200 gathered to hear the former Senator from Pennsylvania talk about his connection to Somerset County, dating back to his grandfather, who settled here after leaving fascist Italy in 1927 to work in the Pennsylvania coal mines, not far from where Santorum announced his candidacy today.

Santorum cites his grandfather as the motivation behind his presidential bid drawing on nostalgia from yester-year and a need to create that again. 

The father of seven talked about how his grandfather came to America because it offered freedom and a chance. 

"That's the America that my grandfather came to. That's the America that my Dad lived in. And that's the America that they need again today."

And while the announcement may have the lacked the flair of a multi-city bus tour, his message was clear.

"I'm ready to lead. I'm ready. I'm ready to do what has to be done for the next generation," said Santorum. "That's why I'm announcing today that I'm running for President of the United States."

Santorum readily admits that his candidacy will be an uphill battle. As he continues to lag behind in most national polls, Santorum has already made multiple visits to key states like Iowa and New Hampshire, far outpacing his Republican rivals.

Santorum hopes to bill himself as the true, conservative voice. Yesterday, he won the New Hampshire Conservative Future PAC's presidential straw poll. Not surprising, as he promotes his conservative record during his time in the House and the Senate on moral and fiscal issues. It's this record he hopes will appeal to voters in places like Iowa and South Carolina.

In an email to his supporters just before his announcement, Santorum said, "I am now officially seeking the Republican nomination – not as a 'rank and file' party member, but first and foremost – as a conservative."

Locals seemed mixed on Santorum's anouncement in their town. At a gas station in Somerset, a resident joked that he would stand across the street with an Obama sign. Santorum lost his seat by nearly 18 points in the 2006 election to Senator Bob Casey.

Supporters of his conservative agenda chalk up his 2006 loss to anti-incumbent fever in the state. Vince Mercuri, who attended the announcement with his wife and daughter, said that Santorum was a true and passionate conservative who walks the talk.

As for the other candidates leading the Republican field, "I think those candidates are saying what they need to say to capture the pro-social agenda", arguing that their records do not match their words. 

The Senator is not without controversy. In 2003, Santorum was criticized for his views on gay marriage and homosexuality or what he then deemed to be a lifestyle "antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family."

His comments sparked outrage on both sides of the aisle with internet campaigns taking aim at the Senator.

In light of disappointing job numbers last week, it is evident that the issue of the political season will be the economy.

Santorum assigned plenty of blame to 'Obamacare' and a culture of dependency he felt the Obama administration was setting up.

"Every single American now will be hooked to the government like an IV."

Starting tomorrow, Santorum will continue his tour through Iowa and New Hampshire to court voters. Today's announcement – the beginning of a difficult road to the Republican nomination. 

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