Entering the primaries as an outsider, Rick Santorum has since become the most tenacious competitor for favored Republican Mitt Romney. The Catholic is targeting conservative voters with polarizing viewpoints.
"Economy and jobs" are number one ie for U.S. in 2012 presidential election year. This is what surveys show, this is what experts proclaim. But in recent weeks, Republican presidential contenders are bringing alternative spark to the campaign: traditional family values, freedom of faith and the right understanding of God for a president of the United States.
Former altar boy and father of seven children
The leader in this new culture war is 53-year-old Rick Santorum, who comes from an Italian immigrant family.
His trademarks: traditionalist Catholic, former altar boy, ex-senator from Pennsylvania, father of seven children, married for 21 years.
Rick Santorum and his wife Karen personify conservative family values. Both have home-schooled their offspring, because the public schools are big state "factories". In a 2005 joint book, the couple criticized "misogynistic radical feminism" for wanting to tell women they must work outside the home.
Over the weekend, Santorum distanced himself from the first and so far only Catholic president of the United States, Democrat John F.
Kennedy. In the 1969 election campaign, Kennedy had ared the majority Protestant and partly anti-Catholic nation that he would adhere to the strict separation of church and state.
Santorum questions strict separation of church and state
Now Santorum countered on ABC television, "I don't believe in an America with absolute separation of church and state." The arch-conservative Catholic raised the question, "What kind of country do we live in where only people of no faith have a place in public life and can champion their cause?"
As a senator, Santorum had already made a name for himself as an opponent of abortion, contraceptives and homosexuality. He doesn't think much of birth control, nor same-sex partnerships. For them the regulations of the Catholic Church are authoritative, Santorum said recently in CNN. In the U.S., "sexual freedom has become more important than religious freedom," he lamented.
The U.S. "religious world" looks different today than it did in 1960: evangelicals and conservative Catholics find each other especially on "values ies". The evangelical information service Christian Post recently published a list of Catholic politicians "often mistaken for evangelicals". Rick Santorum's name was at the top.
In an oft-quoted 2008 speech, Santorum actually sounded like a conservative televangelist: Satan had attacked the nation's institutions, including universities. One is in a "spiritual war", he said. The established Protestant churches would have moved away from Christianity.
Even in the current election campaign, Santorum is passing judgment on what is real Christianity. President Barack Obama is being guided by a "mendacious theology". The "New York Times" then commented sharply: "Mullah Santorum" is speaking here.
Santorum's rival, Newt Gingrich, also seems to be convinced that cultural warfare can win votes in the election campaign. Speaking in Georgia, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives warned that the "secular left" is undermining American principles. With almost "religious zeal," he said, leftists have spread the word that the government must hold a "neutral worldview". But referring to his second divorces, Gingrich humbly confesses he is not a religious leader, but someone who seeks God's forgiveness.
The "religious ies" are apparently intended to help against Mitt Romney, the favored Republican candidate who was ahead in recent primaries in Arizona and Michigan. For Romney, who cultivates the image of a competent business manager, the matter of faith is complicated: He is a Mormon, a member of a minority religion that is viewed with skepticism by many Americans.
Numerous Americans in the Republican Party, Tea Party groups and some churches feel, as Santorum does, that their values are in jeopardy. For in the U.S., tolerance for gay marriage is growing, premarital sex is largely considered normal. Leading Republicans, however, are concerned about the culture war, which is unlikely to win majority support.
This concern was recently ventilated by Jeb Bush, Republican ex-governor of Florida and brother of former President George W. Bush: Presidential candidates appealed too strongly "to fears and emotion". A "comprehensive perspective" is lacking, he said. At the latest on "Super Tuesday" next week with primaries in ten states, it should become clear how great the chances are for Santorum.