OK Speech, Half-Empty Room; Santorum Gets Low Marks for CPAC Appearance

By Laura Bonawits, Contributing Writer

With well-known names in the mix for potential 2012 GOP candidates, the biggest challenge former senator Rick Santorum was to stand out in a group of big shots. It.. didn’t go so well.

CPAC was a prime opportunity for GOP presidential hopefuls to test the waters and communicate their message, and Santorum may have learned he has some things to work on. A meager turnout and less-than enthusiastic reception appeared especially weak after following former speaker Newt Gingrich’s address to a packed room.

Santorum was one of many conservative figures to address the crowds at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that took place Thursday through Saturday in Washington, D.C. But it was the crowds that proved to be an issue for Santorum— the room was only about half full during his speech.

The Fix declared Santorum one of three “losers” of CPAC, while the headline on Politico read “Santorum’s Missed Chance.”

The consensus among CPAC attendees was that Santorum didn’t give a bad speech, but he failed to gain or demonstrate any kind of momentum. Most of the attendees from PA (that PoliticsPA spoke to) demurred on Santorum’s bid and expressed support for other candidates. Several cited his 18-point re-election loss in 2006.

The attendance prompted some questions about whether the former senator could get his foot in the door with the rest of the potential candidates, many whom have become household names, like ’08 candidates Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul (who took first place in the straw poll for a second consecutive year).

Though his speech didn’t seem to dazzle attendees or critics, Santorum used the moment take some jabs at Obama’s handling of foreign affairs. “President Obama has refused to look at the situation in Iran and Egypt and around the world and call evil, evil,” he said.

Santorum criticized the president’s approach in handling demonstrations in Iran a few years back, and now in Egypt. “This time, what does the president do?” he said, “He sides with the protesters. I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t side with the protesters, but what message are we sending to countries around the world that are friends of ours? When things get tough, we walk away.”

Comparing Obama to Ronald Reagan, Santorum contrasted their views of American Exceptionalism. “The president of the United States– let’s just be very clear– he does not believe America is exceptional,” he said.

Santorum also touched upon his beliefs in social conservatism, calling moral, cultural and social issues “the fabric that the stool is made of…America is a great moral enterprise.”

Despite failing to use his CPAC address, Santorum is still hard at work. He “will bank on his conservative bona fides,” as CBS News put it, to gain the support of Tea Party members. And no matter what happened at CPAC, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina can expect to see Santorum quite a bit over the coming months.

Managing Editor Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.

February 15th, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories | 7 Comments

7 thoughts on “OK Speech, Half-Empty Room; Santorum Gets Low Marks for CPAC Appearance”

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  2. Don Reitmeyer says:

    “It’s hard for Santorum to pull himself away from the Beltway, since he (like Joe Sestak) is really a Virginia resident, with a mail-stop house in PA.”
    REALLY? David this is Blatantly False! Joe Sestak was an Admiral, his address would also therefore have been Virginia, where the Fleet he Commanded is based. As a Marine serving in the Philippines my address was N. Carolina, where the East Coast Marine Forces are Stationed. Joe Sestak is a Kind and Understanding Man who worked hard for his Constituents in PA, where he owns a Home and pays PA taxes. I have met the Man twice and he outshines the loony,radical,Far right wing Rick Santorum any Day!

  3. P.D. says:

    Rick Santorum is pretty much hated in his former State of PA. How do I know? I live here. Not only do people find him arrogant, he wrote a book ‘It takes a Family’ (A rip of of Hillary’s ‘It takes a Village’)in which he bashes working women. He implies women only work outside the home to escape their husbands and children only to spend their ill gotten money on themselves. When in reality, many women work outside the home because they HAVE to. Ricky should just forget politics.

  4. David Diano says:

    Jgras-
    It’s hard for Santorum to pull himself away from the Beltway, since he (like Joe Sestak) is really a Virginia resident, with a mail-stop house in PA.

  5. Elizabeth White says:

    Why do they talk ONLY of Obama’s failings and not what they would do instead? What are their plans? How will they succeed?

  6. jgras says:

    Rick Santorum, like George Allen, needs to go get a real job somewhere else. He’s been there, done that on Capitol Hill. Time to move on and start a career outside the Beltway. What is it with these non-reelected Congressmen and Senators that they cannot pry themselves away from the trappings of Washington? We don’t need any more career politicians. That’s what’s wrong with the sytem in DC.

  7. TedK4329 says:

    Made the mistake of Googling “Santorum” to find out who this guy is. Ewww.

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