Santorum promises to defeat ISIS if elected president

by Gregory Tomlin |

(REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk)Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum formally declares his candidacy for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during an event in Cabot, Pennsylvania, May 27, 2015.

CABOT, Pa. – (Christian Examiner)— Hoping to mirror the success of past presidents who were elected after an unsuccessful first run for the White House, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has entered the 2016 presidential race.

Santorum, a Republican, told a crowd yesterday in Cabot, Pa., near his childhood home, he offered a "clear and conservative" vision for America.

"Working families don't need another president tied to big government or big money," Santorum said, presumably targeting Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. "I am proud to stand here among you and for you, the American workers who have sacrificed so much, to announce that I am running for president of the United States."

"Today is the day we're going to begin to fight back," he said.

Santorum struck a decidedly middle-class tone in his speech, recalling his family's immigrant heritage and his life in a small town. He said he wanted to be the voice of working families.

Santorum hit on a number of policy issues in his address, such as immigration. He said the country had opened its borders to more than 35 million mostly-unskilled workers, which had resulted in stagnant wages for American families. He also said he wanted to help revitalize American manufacturing and skilled labor.

He also called for a flat tax, which would mean the 43 percent of Americans who pay no taxes will have to contribute. Critics say the flat tax will unfairly tilt the playing field toward the rich, but advocates say it will result in the rich being unable to avoid taxes through investments in property and other deductions.

Santorum also warned about the continued devastation inflicted on the Middle East by the Islamic State, a group he promised to defeat if elected. Santorum said he was once mentioned in an Islamic State publication.

"After 12 years of legislating and warning about the gathering storm of radical Islam, they know who I am, and I know who they are," Santorum said.

Santorum also said earlier in May at the South Carolina Freedom Summit that if ISIS wants to practice a 7th century version of Islam, "then let's load up our bombers and bomb them back to the 7th century."

While Santorum's first speech as a presidential candidate tended to avoid references to social issues, a hallmark of his 2012 campaign when he often spoke about abortion and same-sex marriage, he hinted that he would seek to protect people of faith from the legal threats of the gay rights movement.

Santorum said he supports the freedom for citizens "to believe what you are called to believe, not just in your places of worship, but outside of your places of worship."

There is no doubt among political analysts that Santorum is the political underdog in an already crowded field. His recent position as a Christian film executive has been decidedly less high-profile than the platform of other candidates, such as Sen. Ted Cruz and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Huckabee transitioned directly to a FOX News television program on the heels of his 2008 presidential campaign. Cruz appears regularly on television to comment on presidential powers and Senate issues and has become the voice of constitutional conservatives in the Republican Party.

According to Real Clear Politics, Santorum only polled at 1.7 percent among other Republican presidential candidates – declared and potential. That means he will have to gain significant ground in order to be included in Republican presidential debates, which typically are limited to a maximum of 10 candidates.

The first televised Republican debate is August 6.

Santorum was a two-term senator until he lost his seat to Democratic challenger Bob Casey in 2006 by 18 points. In spite of his loss and with little money in his war chest, Santorum struck into Iowa in 2012 with a conservative message on social issues.

He won 64 of the state's counties, besting Mitt Romney who later won the Republican nomination. Santorum won a total of 11 state primaries in the 2012 presidential race.

Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Iowa's Drake University, told the Des Moines Register Santorum's unexpected win in the 2012 caucuses means he shouldn't be counted out of this race.

"People who follow thoroughbred racing will tell you there is always a reason why you actually run the race, and that is because the unexpected can happen," Goldford told the newspaper. "So while it looks very uphill now for someone like Santorum, there is a reason why you actually have the caucuses."