Mr. Santorum’s reinvention from a cultural warrior to a working-class hero is not catching on.The obvious solution for Santorum? Time to play the Bella card!
Last year, Mr. Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, published “Blue Collar Conservatives," a campaign manifesto arguing that Republicans should not cede the issue of middle-class income stagnation to Democrats. He wrote of laid-off factory workers who toil at “part-time jobs at big-box stores."
In campaign appearances, Mr. Santorum can seem either brave or crazy for ignoring red-meat social issues in favor of economic policies that go against his party’s usual views: raising the minimum wage, support for the Export-Import Bank....
At a joint appearance with former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas last week in Cedar Falls, Iowa, speaking to about 100 social conservatives who had elbowed their way past scores of gay rights protesters, Mr. Huckabee pumped up the crowd by warning that “religious liberty” was in dire jeopardy from “nine unelected men in black robes." The crowd loved it.
Mr. Santorum, by contrast, spent his time onstage criticizing the Republican Party for championing business owners rather than the people who work for them....
The applause was merely polite.
Bella is Santorum's youngest child. She has a genetic disorder called Trisomy 18 -- and during his last presidential campaign he used her relentlessly as a campaign prop. In November 2011, he featured her in an ad:
Former Senator Rick Santorum released a web video today focusing on the heart and soul of the Santorum family -- his 3-year-old daughter Bella, a special-needs child....That worked, so he kept doing it, as The New York Times noted in March 2012:
"During the last debate I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red-eye home to see my three year old daughter Bella, who had surgery earlier that day," the Republican presidential candidate said. "Following that debate, Karen and I got numerous emails and calls from supporters asking how she was doing. We were so touched by the tremendous outpouring of support, the thoughts and the prayers we received for our sweet Bella."
"She is doing great and back to her joyful, smiley self. But since so many people were concerned, we wanted to share a little bit more about Bella and the great blessing she is for our entire family," he said. "We hope you'll enjoy this video."
Bella has emerged as the emotional centerpiece of Mr. Santorum's campaign. His references to her are easily the most riveting moments of his speeches, usually leaving audiences silent and weepy. He has even built entire speeches around Bella's story, telling certain audiences, especially those in churches, every painful detail of her birth and how the family has embraced her as a blessing.Santorum has exploited his family's medical history for years. In 1996, facing a tough fight to hold on to his Senate seat, he sat for a Washington Post interview and pointedly invoked his son Gabriel, who was born prematurely and died shortly afterward:
"That's my little guy," Santorum says, pointing to the photo of Gabriel, in which his tiny physique is framed by his father's hand. The senator often speaks of his late son in the present tense. It is a rare instance in which he talks softly.And in 2013, he used the suffering and death of a nephew as the basis for a red-meat speech denouncing Democrats
Former Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Friday delivered an emotional address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, inspired by the death of his nephew the night before....Now, you may have read that George Stephanopoulos, trying to stave off Republican calls for his ouster at ABC, is trying to do penance by landing interviews with Republicans:
With tears in his eyes, the former presidential candidate talked emotionally about his nephew who passed away Thursday in Pittsburgh from what Santorum described as "a horribly painful disease that almost overnight began ravaging his body."
... As the silent crowd listened, Santorum spoke with conviction.... While society has made immense progress in stopping physical pain, he said, Democrats have gone too far in trying to use government programs to address almost every other pain....
"Obama has offered a new deal. He and his friends will reduce the pain and the suffering," Santorum said....
Three days after that controversy broke, Stephanopoulos hosted an exclusive interview with Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Then, on Wednesday, he landed an even bigger exclusive: Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, would be announcing his bid for the presidency. Stephanopoulos also landed the first interview with Santorum, which will take place this afternoon.Well, ABC has posted a Stephanopoulos-Santorum clip now, and what do you know -- it's about Bella:
ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News
So Stephanopoulos gets to overcompensate for the all-but-unforgivable sin of giving to a former president's charity, and Santorum gets to exploit his developmentally disabled child again on national TV. It's win-win!