Last held public office: U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, 1995-2007
One of the most socially conservative prospective candidates in the field, Rick Santorum hopes to find favor among the party's religious right. The former Senator supports a constitutional amendment banning or restricting abortion and is a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage. In 2001, he introduced a bill that would require schools to discuss controversies with evolution and promote the teaching of intelligent design.
Santorum's time in Congress was marked by a number of controversies. In 2003, he categorized homosexuality with polygamy, adultery and sodomy, calling them things that conflict with "traditional" families. In 2004, he withdrew his kids from a Pennsylvania charter school after questions arose about his residency status. That same year, Santorum endorsed moderate incumbent Arlen Specter over conservative Pat Toomey for the Senate, drawing the ire of many activists. He has since said he regrets the move and talks about it regularly as a lesson in the perils of straying from principle.
As a dark-horse candidate, Santorum hasn't had the luxury of relying on buzz about his intentions, but he's made them clear with an aggressive travel schedule to early primary states. But his chances of capturing the nomination in a field of better-known and better-funded candidates is slim. When Santorum ran for re-election in 2006, Democrat Bob Casey crushed him by a whopping 18 points, the largest margin of defeat for an incumbent Senator in a quarter century.
Representative quote: "What this country needs is someone with strong conviction who can articulate those convictions and who can provide a vision for America that is an alternative to the big government, freedom-depriving vision of Barack Obama."
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