Rick Santorum May Announce Exploratory Committee Tonight

National   Steven Ertelt   Apr 13, 2011   |   11:49AM    Washington, DC

Rick Santorum, the pro-life former Pennsylvania senator, may announce tonight in an interview on Fox News that he is setting up an exploratory committee to allow him to more officially consider a GOP presidential bid.

Officials with Santorum’s political action committee said viewers of the show hosted by Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren should be prepared for a “big announcement,” which is expected to have to do with the exploratory committee since he has already committed to a May 5 debate in South Carolina that requires participants to have set up such a committee or formally declared a presidential bid.

Should Santorum announce the committee, he would follow four other possible Republican presidential hopefuls, including pro-life businessman Herman Cain, pro-life former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who changed his position from supporting abortion to pro-life in advance of the 2008 presidential election. Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer has also set up such a committee.

Santorum has already made 14 trips to New Hampshire, the number two primary election state in the process and he is expected to head back there again this week and to participate in a presidential debate on June 7 sponsored by WMUR-TV, the New Hampshire Union Leader and CNN.

“I am committed to being an active participant in the debate process to share my views about how we can best tackle our nation’s challenges, particularly in a state like New Hampshire that hosts the first-in-the-nation primary. I hope others considering a run for president will take this opportunity seriously so that we may offer solutions and alternatives to President Obama’s failed policies,” he said in a statement.

Santorum official stance is that he “continues to seriously consider a run for President” but that may change after tonight.

The former congressman and senator has strong pro-life views and, in February, condemned talk of a social issues “truce” including abortion.

In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Santorum slammed Mitch Daniels, also a potential GOP hopeful, on his abortion-social issues truce.

Daniels, the Indiana governor, renewed his talk of a truce in a new interview in which he said a “mute button” should be pressed on social issues like abortion so politicians could focus on fixing the economy. The truce talk has upset pro-life advocates and other potential candidates like Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty have weighed in with criticism of Daniels’ comments.

“I think he is as far off base,” Santorum said of Daniels. “I don’t think he understands what conservatism is all about.”

“I don’t think he understands that Reagan’s three-legged stool is not just that we have three legs of the stool, the social conservative, the fiscal conservative and national security conservatives, but that the material made of all three parts of the stool is the same,” Santorum added. “And it’s a moral and cultural heritage of this country, is what that stool, the material itself that the stool is made of.”

Santorum continued: “And if we deny that, if we don’t understand that those issues are intertwined, and that without a strong and good and moral culture, we can’t have limited government, you can’t have lower taxes, you can’t, you don’t have the freedoms that we enjoy unless we have a moral code by which can all agree to live by. And for him to say that those issues need to be put in the background, I just, I’m stunned by it.”

Santorum told Hewitt he condemned the elite Republicans who don’t care about social issues but drive a lot of the money in the GOP presidential races.

“When you go to the big cities, where the big money is, the Republican donors say shut up about those issues, or we’re not going to help you. And I don’t know if you saw George Will’s piece today, but it’s pretty clear I’m not shutting up about those issues. I think they’re important issues. Obviously, the economic issues are front and center. But you have to talk about the economic issues even in the cultural and moral context,” the former Pennsylvania senator said. “There’s an element of the party, and unfortunately, I keep coming back, it comes back to where most of the money is in the Republican Party, are folks who live in the big cities, and are more socially liberal. And they just don’t want, they don’t want the campaign to be about something that they don’t want to be able to talk to their friends at the club about.”

Last year, post-election polling showed the issue of abortion helped pro-life candidates and played a role in the Republican shellacking of pro-abortion Democrats.

A survey conducted by the Polling Company firm found pro-life candidates enjoyed a definite advantage in the 2010 elections.

Thirty percent of all voters said that abortion “affected” their vote with 22% of all voters backing pro-life candidates and eight percent saying they supported pro-abortion candidates — giving pro-life candidates a net pro-life advantage of 14 percent among all voters.

Examined another way, of the Americans who voted based on the issue of abortion, 73 percent picked pro-life candidates while just 27 percent supported abortion advocates.

The post-election polling also found 27 percent of voters said abortion funding in the health care law affected their vote and they voted for candidates who opposed the health care law while just 4 percent said abortion funding in the health care law affected their vote and they voted for candidates who favored the law.

“This advantage is not new,” said Karen Cross, the political director for the National Right to Life Committee. “In 1980, National Right to Life Political Action Committee was organized, and in the 30 years that followed, in election after election, among those voters who base their vote on abortion, National Right to Life has consistently seen a definite advantage for pro-life candidates over pro-abortion candidates.”