Does Rick Santorum have a Satan problem?

Parts of a 2008 speech by Rick Santorum have surfaced online, in which he says Satan is subverting great American institutions. Its appearance comes at a time in the campaign when Santorum's rivals are trying to make voters think twice about supporting him.

Silvia Izquierdo/AP
A dog in a devil costume watches a carnival parade in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earlier this month.

Does Rick Santorum have a Satan problem? Specifically, is it a political negative for him that the Drudge Report all day Tuesday has highlighted a story about a 2008 speech he gave at Ave Maria University in Florida in which he said America is under assault by Satan?

“Satan is attacking the great institutions of America, using those great vices of pride, vanity, and sensuality as the root to attack all of the strong plants that [have] so deeply rooted in the American tradition,” Mr. Santorum said in that 2008 speech.

Audio excerpts from the speech indicate that Santorum said Satan had successfully subverted academia first, followed by mainline Protestantism, which he said is “in shambles,” and then the culture. Politics came last.

“The body politic held up pretty well until the last couple of decades,” he said in the speech.

As to whether this hurts Santorum’s electability, we’ll just note that lots of people were making fun of this Tuesday on Twitter. We suspect, however, that they’re people who were not going to vote for Santorum in the first place. On the other end of the spectrum, his committed supporters may shrug off the references. Because he was speaking in a religious context, he was using religious language, and “Satan” as a metaphor for lots of things is a pretty common usage from pulpits of a Sunday.

Will swing voters, or new fans of Santorum whose attachment is not deeply rooted, be put off? That’s the real question.

Furthermore, the fact that this speech is surfacing now, at such a crucial moment in the campaign, should trouble Santorum’s advisers. Where did it come from? The most likely prospect would be from the camp of an opponent who has the money to do opposition research and needs to slow Santorum’s rise. You can supply your own names there – we don’t have to.

If his opponents have this, they may have other stuff, too. Santorum is recent days has already spent a lot of time explaining what he meant when he referred to President Obama’s “phony theology.”

On Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, Santorum said that in fact he’s on the campaign trail in the upper Midwest talking about energy, talking about manufacturing jobs, talking about the budget deficit and cutting corporate taxes. Yet all the media harp on are his comments about abortion, contraception, and other hot-button social issues, Santorum complained.

“Of course they want to talk about the issues that fit their narrative and their narrative is, oh, Rick Santorum all he cares about are these issues,” Santorum said on Fox.

Santorum went on to say that the “phony theology” line referred to Mr. Obama’s embrace of what the ex-Pennsylvania senator called “radical environmentalism” that raises the Earth to a position above man, instead of the other way around.

In a keynote speech Tuesday in Arizona to the Maricopa County Lincoln Day Lunch and Presidential Straw Poll, Santorum offered up his hard-hitting view of the Obama administration that has drawn supporters who've been wary of Mitt Romney’s commitment to conservatism.

“Ladies and gentlemen this election is about foundational things. It is about whether ... we are going to be a free people economically,” said Santorum.

More and more, the government is prescribing what kinds of loans you can get, what kinds of light bulbs you can use, what kind of car you can drive, according to Santorum.

“President Obama says, 'I am going to give you the right to health care, give me your money, give me your freedom, and we will provide for you.' When the government gives you rights, they can take those rights away,” said the GOP presidential hopeful.

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined on Tuesday to be drawn into a discussion about whether Santorum is questioning Obama’s religious faith.

“This president is focused on doing the things that he believes the American people elected him to do, which is work with Congress or independently to take every measure and every action he can to grow the economy and create jobs,” said Mr. Carney.

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