Santorum sees himself as the candidate who can best represent social conservatives, political analysts say.
However, Santorum does not see the 2012 campaign simply as a forum to discuss cultural values, observers and supporters say. He wants to tackle jihadism, which he sees as the root of terrorism. He also advocates limiting government, and restoring fiscal responsibility in Washington, says Sam Clovis, a professor at Morningside College and a talk-radio host in Sioux City, Iowa, who has interviewed Santorum three times.
The health-care plan President Obama signed into law in 2010 was “the final straw for [Santorum] in terms of what it means for freedom and the future of the country,” says Richard Girard, an entrepreneur in New Hampshire whom Santorum named to his PAC’s advisory committee in the state. Santorum has voiced concern that the new health-care system will lead to devaluing all human life. Santorum has a personal stake in the issue as the father of seven children, including a daughter who was diagnosed with a genetic disorder, Mr. Girard says.
Santorum’s longtime love of politics and tremendous self-confidence are key factors in a presidential bid, too, says Alan Novak, who served as chairman of the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania. Santorum’s political acumen has helped catapult him to two improbable victories in Congressional races. In 1990, he won a House seat in the Pittsburgh suburbs by ousting seven-term incumbent Rep. Doug Walgren. In 1994, he narrowly defeated another incumbent, Sen. Harris Wofford, during a year of a Republican wave.
Santorum has grown accustomed to being an underdog, as he is now. “Every time he’s underestimated, that’s when he surprises people,” says Mr. Novak.