Strategy

02.10.12

Rick Santorum Flies His Faith Flag at CPAC Conference

Fresh off his victories this week, the former senator denounced abortion at CPAC. Howard Kurtz on Santorum’s strategy of emphasizing his Catholic faith.

If there was any lingering doubt that Rick Santorum is going to run for president as a committed Catholic, it vanished on Friday morning.

Rather than wait for his speech at CPAC, the huge conservative gathering in Washington, Santorum held forth in a hallway at a gathering called Students for Life.

Addressing his own faith, the man whose presidential campaign has been revitalized by a triple victory this week declared that for him, faith provides “motivation. It’s a calling.”

In a voice that was barely audible given the 10-foot throng around him, the former senator sounded an inclusive note at first, saying, “This is a movement, not based on condemnation, not based on accusation, but based on love.”

But then he pivoted to an uncompromising stance: “I don’t believe life begins at conception. I know life begins at conception.”

With Christian activist and former president candidate Gary Bauer standing behind him, Santorum made an impassioned pitch against abortion, saying: “We need to go out and challenge the left, which is constantly telling the public that conservatives are anti-science. The choice that they’re choosing is to kill an innocent human life.”

He mocked the contention of liberals that they want abortion to be rare, saying, “They fight every attempt to give women informed consent.”

Santorum is subtly distancing himself from Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Newt Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism a few years ago.

By pouncing on religious issues, especially when the White House battle with Catholic organizations over a rule governing contraception is in the news, Santorum subtly distances himself from Mitt Romney, a Mormon, and Newt Gingrich, who converted to Catholicism a few years ago.

Moments later, the leading faith candidate in 2008, Mike Huckabee, told the CPAC audience that he didn’t want to get hung up on ideological credentials. “I’m not so interested in hearing, ‘Mirror, mirror, on the wall, tell me who is the most conservative of all,’ ” he said, because all of the GOP’s candidates are more conservative than President Obama.