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Many Pennsylvanians just don’t like Rick Santorum

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October 5, 2006

By KIMBERLY HEFLING

Rick Santorum has spent 12 years in the Senate — and millions of dollars on TV ads for a third term. Yet a lot of Pennsylvania voters just plain don’t like him.

Polls show Santorum’s approval rating is in the 30s, just about what it was a year ago. Roughly the same number of voters view him unfavorably as favorably.


Questions over the use of Pennsylvania tax dollars to pay for the cyber schooling of his six children in Virginia continue to dog him. Anger lingers over comments he made in a book last year criticizing some working parents, as well as statements he made in opposition to same-sex marriage and in support of keeping Terri Schiavo alive.

"Santorum’s real problem is Santorum," said Clay Richards, a Quinnipiac University pollster.

A confident politician with youthful good looks, Santorum is banking on his reputation as a hard worker who brings home the federal dollars, and the clout he has as the No. 3 Senate Republican. Pennsylvania is a Democratic-leaning state, and working for votes is nothing new to him.

He frequently boasts that with him, you at least know where he stands on issues.

Some GOP candidates are distancing themselves from President Bush, but Santorum said he’s not. "Just because the president is down in the polls, I’m not someone who is going to walk away from him," he said.

In a tactical nod to his unpopularity, Santorum’s campaign has run positive TV ads in an attempt to soften his image. In a funny one titled "Polka," he bumps into a woman on a dance floor who thanks him for what he does and then tells him, "Move it or lose it."

He’s sponsored women’s forums and has a section on his campaign Web site, "I heard it around the water cooler," that attempts to debunk some perceptions about him.

His strategy is also to question the integrity of state treasurer Bob Casey, his Democratic opponent who has a lead in the polls.

Santorum has run harsh TV ads attempting to link Casey to corruption. He’s also accused Casey of relying on the name of his father, the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, to get elected. He’s said Casey doesn’t take tough stands on issues and avoids debates, even though Casey has already done one and has agreed to three more.

To make his point at a forum this week sponsored by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, Santorum pushed an empty chair across the stage even though there was already one there for him next to "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl, the forum moderator.

After discussing the threat of Iran, a frequent subject he broaches these days, he turned to the empty chair and said, "I’d like to hear what my opponent has to say about this." The crowd of several hundred laughed and applauded.

"I think I owe you, the people of Pennsylvania. I owe them my best. I owe them my energy, my passion, my conviction," Santorum said at the forum.

It’s a message that has appealed to some voters like Janet Planutis, 62, a hospital dietary worker in Hazelton, Pa. The Democrat said she’s likely going to vote for Santorum because of his tough stand against illegal immigration. She said she’s seen a more positive side of him in ads, although she doesn’t like his negative ads.

"To me, he sounded and looked arrogant in the past. His political advertising makes him look a little less so lately," Planutis said. "I’m really surprising myself. I never voted for him in the past. I am leaning towards voting for him."

Casey answered one of Santorum’s attack ads with one featuring Gov. Ed Rendell calling the ad "trash." Another says Santorum’s "record and his attack ads are a disgrace."

In TV ads, Casey has reminded voters about Santorum’s book, in which he wrote that both parents shouldn’t work outside the home if they can survive on one income. The Casey campaign has also dumped hundreds of unflattering clips of Santorum on YouTube, a Web site that usually features wacky videos. In appearances and in ads, Casey reminds voters that Santorum votes with the president 98 percent of the time.

Democrats are counting on voters like Steve Hutton, 55, a Democrat who owns a nursery in Chester County. After he heard Santorum speak at the forum in Hershey, Hutton said he respects Santorum because he is "one of the very rare politicians that will take a stand he believes is right … and he’ll be very vocal about it."

But Hutton said he won’t be voting for Santorum in the general election on Nov. 7.

"Most of the stands he takes are ones I’m not comfortable with," Hutton said.

____

On the Net:

Rick Santorum

Bob Casey


16 Responses to Many Pennsylvanians just don’t like Rick Santorum

  1. Lysistrata

    October 5, 2006 at 6:09 pm

    Santorum took a naturally aborted fetus from his wife home to his children to see and touch and pray and sing for, if that is not sick I don’t know what is. He is a sicko, people who would vote for him knowing about this must be sick too.
    With the Republicans in power the nation has gone bonkers.

  2. Fred

    October 5, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    The main thing I should note is that “youthful good looks” is a mild negative to me in a Senator; I unconsiously assume they aren’t old enough for the job.

  3. Phil

    October 5, 2006 at 7:41 pm

    It’s not the youthful good looks, it’s the fact that he’s a lunatic fundamentalist nutcase. Everyone I know in PA tends to realize we’ve living in the 21st century, not the 19th.

  4. David Ellis

    October 5, 2006 at 8:06 pm

    There are four types of conservatives:
    1.) Western “libertarians” who want government out of their hair so they can be as selfish and arrogant as they bloody well please.
    2.) Southern “Christians” who want government to be an iron fist enforcing their own special brand of fundamentalist fascism.
    3.) Eastern “business” types who expect the GOP to be a lap dog for the Corporate Nanny State and to keep the working man from asking for too much.
    4.) Cats like Bush and Santorum: ALL OF THE ABOVE.

    BTW: some Democratic congressman said Santorum is Latin for ASSHOLE. Sometimes the truth IS funny!

  5. ebbtide

    October 6, 2006 at 1:26 pm

    Earlier this year The New York Times Magazine (Sunday mag section of NYT) had a cover story on Santorum.

    The picture looked as though Santorum was sitting in for the Pope.

    I don’t have anything against a devout Catholic, but I’m not voting for Pope, I’m voting for a Senator.

  6. Kaine

    October 6, 2006 at 3:14 pm

    Being a resident of PA, our hopes of good representation are dimishing.

    Although, IMO, Santorum is scum, he is not much worse than Casey. The only reason Casey landed the democratic backing, is because of name recognition! There were better alternatives than Casey for the democratic slot, but due to his name, he has the best chance of beating Santorum.

    Santorum may vote 98% with Bush, but I bet Casey will bet 75% of the time with Bush as well.

    So democrats in PA have the chance to vote republican(Santorum), or republican lite (Casey) in November. Some choice eh?

  7. Bill Robinson

    October 7, 2006 at 4:27 am

    Yeah, with Santorum you stand in the swamps of New Jersey until Cheney can get his shotgun and blow you away…

  8. Idiotland

    October 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm

  9. Lysistrata

    October 5, 2006 at 6:09 pm

  10. Fred

    October 5, 2006 at 6:44 pm

  11. Phil

    October 5, 2006 at 7:41 pm

  12. David Ellis

    October 5, 2006 at 8:06 pm

  13. ebbtide

    October 6, 2006 at 1:26 pm

  14. Kaine

    October 6, 2006 at 3:14 pm

  15. Bill Robinson

    October 7, 2006 at 4:27 am

  16. Idiotland

    October 5, 2006 at 3:19 pm

    When you look at the comments from the dimbulb “voters” in this article it’s easy to see why this country is in the mess it’s in.