As Rick Santorum ends his bid for president, political analysts are suggesting that his campaign may significantly affect the national discussion of morality.
Dr. David Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame, told EWTN News on April 11 that the “intriguing link” that Santorum drew between morality and economics has the potential to “change our national discussion.”
On April 10, Santorum announced that he was suspending his campaign, shortly after he took time off to be with his youngest daughter, Bella, who was hospitalized for the second time in recent months.
After thanking his followers for their support and prayers, Santorum concluded his campaign by reiterating his often-repeated argument that in order to have a strong economy, America needs “strong families and a strong moral fiber.”
The announcement drew statements of gratitude from those who believe that the former Pennsylvania senator’s contributions to the presidential race will be ongoing.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said that voters were attracted to Santorum “because he passionately articulated the connection between America's financial greatness and its moral and cultural wholeness.”
In an April 10 statement, Perkins said that Santorum has energized Americans who realize that solutions for the nation’s problems must begin with “an understanding that the economy and the family are indivisible.”
“With great vision and passion, Rick Santorum reached the hearts of pro-life voters and allowed them to show the strength of their voting bloc,” added Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.
She said that the “political muscle of the pro-life movement will be critical to defeating President Obama in November.”
Santorum had surprised political analysts across the country as he gained a strong following in recent months, becoming front-runner Mitt Romney’s top competitor and ultimately winning 11 states before exiting the race.
“What Rick Santorum became was the single candidate in the party who could rally the social conservatives,” political scientist Campbell said.
But he was “not simply a cultural warrior,” he added, explaining that Santorum was intriguing because of the way in which he linked “the cultural and moral issues to the economic issues.”
It was in this realm that the former Pennsylvania senator showed himself to be firmly “grounded in Catholic tradition,” he said.
At the same time, Campbell pointed out that Santorum’s message was not as widely disseminated as the presidential contender would have liked, and due to fracturing within the Republican party, he was ultimately unable to gain traction with other groups.
But as Santorum exits the race, it remains to be seen whether Romney – who is now the presumptive Republican nominee – will adopt some of Santorum’s talking points, a move that Campbell said has some precedent.
“The jury is still out on that,” Campbell said, adding that it “will be interesting to watch the rest of the campaign.”
Romney has largely avoided the social issues thus far, perhaps partly because doing so may raise questions about his Mormon faith and his record on social issues.
Campbell suggested that adopting Santorum’s approach may allow Romney to “talk about those issues by linking them to the economic issues,” on which he is stronger.
But despite what happens going forward, he explained, Santorum’s bid has “undoubtedly” already reminded Romney of “the potency of the social conservative base in the Republican party.”
As he moves into the general election, Romney would be wise to remember this base and to work to “tap into their energy and ability to mobilize,” Campbell said.