The Spectacle Blog

Santorum Understands Something the Other Republicans Don’t

By on 12.12.11 | 12:24PM

Toward the end of Saturday night's debate, the candidates were asked when they last experienced financial strain. Rick Santorum answered with a compelling reflection on the value of a stable family during times of financial hardship: 

SENATOR RICK SANTORUM: I c-- I can say that I grew up in a very modest home and was very blessed to have-- all my basic needs met. And one of the most basic needs and the most important one that I've learned was that I was blessed to have a mother and a father. That was the most important gift that I was given, that I had two parents who were together, who loved me, who supported me and made me feel safe. And made the-- the-- the little things that no one would consider luxuries today feel like luxuries because I had that sense of security.

Unfortunately, America, we see the family continuing to break down. And with that, the economic status of those families. Single-parent households in America now have poverty levels approaching 40%. So-- you not only have the lack of security and stability in so many cases, because moms are doin' heroic work tryin' to hold things together, but it's hard.

And so what we can do as a federal government, we can do more importantly as the leader of this country, to try to promote this institution of marriage. Try to promote the family and try to nurture this environment that we have to-- to make sure that families are elevated and supported and fathers and mothers are there to take care of their families and-- and-- and-- and be there for their children. That's the most important luxury, is a mom and a dad.

More or less alone among the Republican candidates, Santorum has consistently highlighted the ways in which government policies make it harder for families to navigate the economy. Most of the others have focused solely on the ways that, for instance, the tax code makes it harder for corporations to find success and remain internationally competitive. Taxes, regulations, and other policies, though, don't just shape the business climate. They also affect households in countless ways. 

A lot of Santorum's debate airtime has gone toward foreign policy and other issues on which he isn't too far removed from the other candidates. He's set himself apart on topics that are particularly relevant for families. For example, he's highlighted his leadership role in passing welfare reform -- one of the achievements of the past generation that conservatives can be most proud of -- every chance he gets. He's offered the most piercing critique of Romney-style health care regulatory systems of any candidate. And he's pointed out that the other candidates' efforts to outbid each other on supply-side tax reforms have led them to forget the need for tax relief for middle class families. 

Santorum's legislative experience and appreciation of the federal government's effects on families is, at least in my estimation, his greatest asset as a candidate. If he did more to highlight his advantage in advancing pro-family policies, it could help his campaign and it would certainly benefit the level of debate in the GOP primary. 

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