Thursday, February 16, 2012

Is Santorum a Tea Party Guy?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 10:00 AM

As he enjoys the latest bubble in the GOP presidential sweepstakes, Rick Santorum will be the guest of the Tucson Tea Party next Wednesday, Feb. 22, before the big CNN presidential debate in Phoenix.

Trent Humphries, who recently stepped down from his leadership role with the local Tea Party, says that the Santorum campaign reached out to the organization to secure a speaking spot. The Tucson Tea Party then extended invites to Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, but didn't hear back from those campaigns.

There are those who wonder why Santorum, rather than Ron Paul, has become the new darling of the Tea Party movement. Gene Healy of the Cato Institute writes in the Libertarian-leaning Reason magazine:

The Tea Party movement was supposed to represent an end to this sort of moralistic Big Government conservatism. Animated by "fiscal responsibility, limited government, and free markets," as the Tea Party Patriots' credo put it, the movement had supposedly put social issues on the back burner to focus on the crisis of government growth.

At one time, Santorum seemed to share this view of the Tea Party — and it troubled him. In that same talk in Harrisburg, he said, "I've got some real concerns about this movement within the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement to sort of refashion conservatism and I will vocally and publicly oppose it."

Santorum needn't have worried: In this year's contests, he's regularly drawn more support from Tea Party voters than Ron Paul, who has been described as the "intellectual godfather of the Tea Party movement."

Exit polls show Santorum beating Paul among self-described Tea Party supporters in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, trailing him only in independent-heavy New Hampshire and Nevada.

A recent Time magazine symposium asked leading thinkers on the Right, "What Is Conservatism?" Anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist offered this answer: "Conservatives ask only one thing of the government. They wish to be left alone."

Tell that to Santorum, whose agenda rests on meddling with other people, sometimes with laws, sometimes with aircraft carrier groups.

"This idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do," Santorum complained to NPR in 2006, "that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues ... that is not how traditional conservatives view the world."

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