Rick Santorum Wants to Save Us From Barack Obama

Fear and loathing on the campaign trail

Despite having trailed in the polls for months, Santorum was unprepared for the loss. “It was a huge shock to him,” says someone in the Senator’s orbit in D.C., who says it was the first time Santorum’s political antenna malfunctioned so badly. This person adds that in the four years since, Santorum hasn’t really recovered. “It’s not the power he misses,” this insider says. “It’s influencing and shaping the debate.”

In the wake of the loss, Santorum did what many ex-pols do: He set about making money and turning himself into a pundit. At the behest of fellow GOPer Brian Tierney, he began writing a weekly column for the Inquirer, cheekily titled “The Elephant in the Room.” He joined a D.C.-based conservative think tank, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he heads a group focused on Islamofascism. He signed on with Fox News as a commentator and began pinch-hitting for conservative commentator Bill Bennett on his syndicated radio show. He even got involved in technology, as vice president for development at Mpower Media, which was developing a device to filter offensive content from household TVs and computers.

Away from the Senate and its demanding schedule, Santorum also could live the sort of family life he’s long hungered for. “I had the chance to actually be the husband and father that I wanted to be,” he explains. “I got to coach my sons’ Little League teams, attend choral concerts and other events for my children. … Just being more of a ‘normal’ husband by helping Karen in the house by cooking dinners, shopping for groceries, fixing things around the house and helping out with school car pools.”

As it turned out, the ability to focus on family was well-timed: In May 2008, Karen gave birth to a baby girl named Isabella, who has a disorder called trisomy 18. (She has three number 18 chromosomes, rather than two.) Ninety percent of children who have the condition die before or during childbirth, and 90 percent of those who survive die within the first year. While Santorum says some doctors suggested that Bella’s life “wasn’t worth saving,” the couple brought her to Philadelphia, to CHOP, where doctors had experienced some success working with trisomy 18 patients. Today, Bella is two and a half, and though she requires constant care, Santorum calls her “a beautiful gift that has changed all of us who are privileged to love and care for her.”

The Santorums’ commitment to their daughter isn’t just admirable. It’s also a stark reminder that in contrast to some other politicians, Santorum attempts to live by the values he preaches. Those close to the family say it’s also an example of the personal kindness and decency that he possesses, but that’s been obscured by his hard-line positions on social issues. “I’ve known him through the birth of a lot of his kids, and every one seems to have made him more gentle and more patient,” says Robert Traynham, who served as Santorum’s communications director for six years and who’s now Washington bureau chief for the Comcast Network.

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  • James

    I didn’t subscribe to Philadelphia Magazine to get right wing propaganda. If I did, I would have subscribed to NewsMax and National Review.

  • John

    BigCheese…propaganda. This article reads like journalism – very rare these days.

  • Scott

    Philadelphia Magazine, when did you move so far right ? what a disgusting article from a disgusting individual

  • DEBORAH

    What is wrong with Phily Mag wrining a nice article about Rick Santorum!! Does the Left Wing Media have the right to bash any canadate simpley because they have a different political belief. What a re