Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania known for being outspoken on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage. He is a conservative activist who has been aptly described as a "tea party kind of guy before there was a tea party."
Career in Politics:
Santorum was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990, where he represented suburban Pittsburgh's 18th Congressional District. He served two two-year terms in the House before mounting a successful challenge to Democratic U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford in 1994.
Santorum was elected to the U.S. Senate and served two six-year terms as Pennsylvania's junior senator before losing a 2006 re-election bid to Democrat Robert P. Casey Jr., the son of a former Keystone State governor.
Santorum lost re-election by a wide margin, partly because some Republican voters were angry over his support of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a moderate, in his 2004 Republican primary battle against Congressman Pat Toomey, who was considered a champion of conservative fiscal policies.
In addition, Santorum's position on abortion rights became less of an issue in his 2006 re-election bid because Casey, too, was an opponent.
While in office, Santorum was elected by his fellow Republican lawmakers to serve as chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, the third-highest ranking position in the party leadership. He was also a member of the "Gang of Seven," a group that exposed the notorious congressional banking and congressional post office scandals.
Key Votes and Bills:
Santorum is a staunch opponent of abortion rights whose signature piece of legislation was a bill outlawing a controversial procedure known as partial-birth abortion. The law, signed by President George W. Bush, makes it a crime for doctors to use the procedure, called "intact dilation and extraction," in later stages of pregnancy.
Santorum was also an author of the landmark Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law required welfare recipients, for the first time, to work after two years on assistance and issued performance rewards to states that moved the poor into the workforce.
Santorum, in speaking about the legislation, said welfare reform "helped millions of Americans leave the welfare rolls and enter the workforce."
- Bachelor's degree in political science from Penn State University;
- Master's degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh;
- Law degree from Dickinson College's School of Law.
Santorum, a native of Winchester, Va., is an attorney by trade.
After leaving the Senate, he served as a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, whose stated mission is "applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy." He headed the center's Program to Promote and Protect America's Freedom, and coined the term "Islamo-Fascism" for radical Islam. He took a leave from the center to run for president.
Santorum is the author of a 2005 book about the importance of two-parent families, It Takes a Family. The book was seen as a rebuttal to former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's It Takes a Village, about the metaphorical village of the federal government.
He and his wife of more than two decades have seven children.
Santorum's strong opposition to gay rights has occasionally gotten him into trouble. In 2003, he was accused of comparing gay sex acts to incest, bigamy and adultery.
In an interview with The Associated Press about a legal challenge to the Texas anti-sodomy law, Santorum said: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual (gay) sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."
After his remarks were widely criticized, Santorum issued a statement saying he believes "all are equal under the Constitution" and that he did not intend his statement to condemn "individual lifestyles."
Presidential Race of 2012:
Santorum first indicated he was considering a run for president because he did not feel there were any serious conservative contenders to Democratic President Barack Obama.
"I'm convinced that conservatives need a candidate who will not only stand up for our views, but who can articulate a conservative vision for our country's future," he wrote to supporters in early 2011. "And right now, I just don't see anyone stepping up to the plate. I have no great burning desire to be president, but I have a burning desire to have a different president of the United States."
But Santorum's presidential campaign failed to gain much traction because he was, in fact, among several social conservatives running for the Republican nomination, namely Texas Gov. Rick Perry, businessman Herman Cain, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Also working against Santorum was the stagnant economy and widespread joblessness, which forced social issues into the background of the 2012 Republican presidential contest.