Rick Santorum and the pursuit of happiness

Rick Santorum addresses a overflow crowd of more than 2,300 during a rally at First Redeemer Church, Cumming on Sunday.  Curtis Compton, compton@ajc.com

Rick Santorum addresses a overflow crowd of more than 2,300 during a rally at First Redeemer Church, Cumming on Sunday. Curtis Compton, compton@ajc.com

Cumming, Ga. — The rise of Rick Santorum and the return of social conservatism to the Republican presidential primary is an economic indicator that bodes well for most of the country, though perhaps not for Mitt Romney.

We’ll get to that in a minute. But first a few details from First Redeemer Church, where on Sunday night, Santorum addressed, for 70 minutes, an overflow crowd of 3,300 or so. If Santorum makes a big move in Georgia on Super Tuesday, people will point to this church meeting as the place where it started.

The crowd was littered with Republican activists – always a sign of whether a campaign is poised to take off.

Among those who were there: Tim Echols, chairman of the Public Service Commission, who acted as MC; Chuck Eaton, member of the PSC; Ralph Hudgens, state insurance commissioner; state Sens. David Shafer, R-Duluth, state chairman for the Santorum campaign and a native of the candidate’s hometown of Butler, Pa., Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and William Ligon, R-Brunswick; state Reps. Buzz Brockway, R-Lawrenceville, Terry Rogers, R-Clarksville, Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, Ed Setzler, R-Kennesaw, Mike Dudgeon, R-Suwanee; former state Senator Jeff Chapman of Brunswick, the new head of Peach Tea Patriots; former state lawmaker Mitch Kaye; and Niki Broun, the wife of U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens.

In an overflow room in another building, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, watched on TV. “I’d never heard him speak, except at the debates, and he was in my hometown,” Woodall said afterwards.

Another pair in the audience: Joe Dendy, the chairman of the Cobb County GOP, and Scott Johnson, the former chairman. In a measure of how far Santorum had come, Johnson said he last saw the former Pennsylvania senator last August at the Iowa State Fair. “I went up and talked to Rick Santorum because nobody else would,” Johnson said.

First Redeemer is pastored by the Rev. Richard Lee, who has appeared in some literature as a supporter of Newt Gingrich.

The Rev.  Richard Lee, right, prays with Rick Santorum, his wife Karen, and three of their children, from left, John, Sarah Maria and Daniel, at the conclusion of Santorum's address during a rally at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga. on Sunday, Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

The Rev. Richard Lee, right, prays with Rick Santorum, his wife Karen, and three of their children, from left, John, Sarah Maria and Daniel, at the conclusion of Santorum's address during a rally at First Redeemer Church in Cumming, Ga. on Sunday, Curtis Compton, ccompton@ajc.com

Before the event, Lee explained that Santorum’s appearance, one day after Gingrich completed a two-day stint in the state, didn’t constitute an endorsement:

“I had breakfast with Newt yesterday. Every time there is an election, we’ll have one or two candidates come through here. It’s never to be misinterpreted. I will invite [President Barack] Obama. Whether he comes, I don’t know. But I invite every candidate to come speak to our people, because [Forsyth] is the second most conservative county in America.”

In addressing the pews, Lee emphasized that the evening was a campaign event. “This is not church tonight,” he said. Even so, and despite his protestations of neutrality, his introduction was more fulsome than many endorsements we’ve heard. Lee emphasized Santorum’s record on pro-life issues – his mention of the ban on partial-birth abortions drew the evening’s first big cheer.

Lee quoted John Adams, the second U.S. president: “’In politics, the middle way is no way at all,’” the pastor quoted the Founding Father, adding this: “Rick Santorum knows only one way, and that’s the right way.”

Santorum focused exclusively on Obama. Only a few allusions were aimed at his GOP rivals – and they received no mentions by name. The economy received some mention, but not much. Santorum’s emphasis was on the overreach of federal government, and on social issues. ”Those who believe they know best are gaining more and more authority to tell us how to live our lives,” he said.

The contraception debate, as a measure of religious freedom, received a good deal of attention. Santorum upped the ante with this line:

“Now we have an administration that’s trying to wipe the decks. Yes, remember the president proposed eliminating charitable deductions for higher-income taxpayers, to cripple further these [churches] and non-profits.”

Let the record show that the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles federal deficit commission recommended the same thing.

That said, you have to note that Santorum’s rise has been concurrent with three weeks of news indicating an economic upturn. And his language indicates that the former Pennsylvania senator recognizes that the economy isn’t the Sword in the Stone that Romney thinks it is.

The core of Santorum’s lengthy talk was the link between the unalienable rights cited by the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution. In particular, Santorum discussed the use of the word “happiness” in the Declaration of Independence, rather than the right to pursue “life, liberty and property.” Said Santorum:

”Property is just stuff. And America isn’t just about pursuing stuff. That’s one of the problems I have sometimes with our fellow conservatives, is that all we talk about — ‘Oh, Rick, presidential candidates just focus on stuff. Focus on taxing and spending, the economy. Don’t talk about anything else. Just focus on stuff. That’s what Americans really care about.’

“Do they? [The crowd murmured in the negative.] No, America and our founders understood that if we were just a bunch of folks that cared about stuff, we have a very, very narrow view of freedom. We have a very, very narrow view of what God’s call is in our lives. Because that’s why He gave us these rights. To pursue happiness.

“…..’Happiness’ actually had a different definition, ‘way back at the time of our founders. Like many words in our lexicon, they evolve and change over time. ‘Happiness’ was one of them. Go back and look it up. You’ll see one of the principle definitions of happiness is ‘to do the morally right thing.’ God gave us rights to life and to freedom to pursue His will. That’s what the moral foundation of our country is.”

Dismissing “stuff” and economic materialism is not necessarily a line that appeals to voters uncertain of where their next paycheck, or meal, will come from. Consider that, in its own way, Santorum’s emphasis is a sign that things are getting better – at least, economically.

Santorum’s closing argument came as part of a brief question-and-answer session. And this was addressed to supporters of both Romney and Gingrich. “This election is about big things. Yeah, it’s about the economy, it’s about jobs,” Santorum said. But he added this:

”If you don’t have a candidate who can reach out and touch something deep inside every American — and that touching may engender passion and support, it may raise someone’s consciousness, it may infuriate.

“But this is an election where we need to move people, remind people, what’s at stake. And there are those who are going to be passionate on both sides. If we do it wrong, they will have all the passion. And if they have all the passion, we will lose.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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159 comments Add your comment

zealous

February 20th, 2012
12:21 am

This guy doesn’t have a chance at getting nominated, nor would he get elected even if Jesus himself endorsed him– and us republicans know this. He comes across as a sanctimonious weenie at best who has been sucking the government tit for so long he doesn’t know his mouth is in a perpetual pucker.

UNVRKNW

February 20th, 2012
12:29 am

Maybe you are right, but you are a vulgar sort of person.

zealous

February 20th, 2012
12:46 am

Vulgar– and right. Or does being right count less than being vulgar? Get over yourself.

Z

February 20th, 2012
12:49 am

3300 people most of which will vote against their own self interest. Santorum is an religious extremist who would like nothing better than turn this country into a Theocracy, NO THANKS!
But his dealings with K Street while he was in Washington is his real downfall. His own state(Penn) kicked him out of Washington with an 18% loss, the worst in History. I trust his own state knows his inner soul better than any other state. Just another Republican Devil in sheep’s clothing looks like to me.

double

February 20th, 2012
1:30 am

do not store up treasures on earth where moths and rust eat them away,and thieves steal them.Lay up treasures in heaven where rust moths and thieves will not be.For where your treasures lie,that is where your heart will be.

WorldProsperity!

February 20th, 2012
3:28 am

What I find amazing and quite franky obscene is the amount of MONEY a CHURCH has while people are starving to death!

Why does a church need a big auditorium? Why cannot people gather in a School building or a cheaper accomodation ?

Is it necessary for a believer to be in a church to be close to god? What is this hypocrisy?

American

February 20th, 2012
4:28 am

After taking the time to consider all the candidates, I will vote for Rick Santorum. In my opinion, he is the best candidate because he represents what I believe in- a strong America based on family values, religious freedom, economic strength, and military strength. I am tired of our leaders apologizing for America, saying that we are something less than other countries, saying that our Constitution is not good enough. We need to stop taking for granted the freedoms we have. We need to realize we live in the greatest country on this earth. We need a leader that believes in America and the people that he serves. We need a leader that believes and respects God- “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I need a leader that believes that the government was created for the people. I need a leader that understands that this earth was made for man to use and to manage- not the other way around. I need a leader that gives me hope based on freedom, I see no hope in what Obama has done and plans to do. His actions have demonstrated that he is against everything that I value. I only see a weaker America under his leadership- a America with more government control and intervention over our lives. Under his leadership, their is no hope for America- I only see less freedom and more burdens for Americans to bear.

Whocares?

February 20th, 2012
4:57 am

Yes, please vote for the stone age thinking Santorum…we’d love nothing better than to see him be the R’s candidate…

Meghan

February 20th, 2012
4:57 am

I find his brand of Christianity frightening and in no way a reflection of Jesus’ message to love one another.

J W C

February 20th, 2012
5:11 am

Here’s the political consideration that puzzles me; thousands of these people who live in retail heaven adorn themselves with clothing and jewelry, drive, fly and otherwise burn fuel to assemble in a large CHURCH to pray and hyperbolize about how others must consider THEM to run OUR lives in sanctimoniousd ways they deem as pursuits fit for our happiness. And they just don’t see how this can possibly run counter to American values. It’s like a train with one set of wheels on one track, and the other set of wheels on a completely different track, all while tooting a whistle for you to get on board. Those of us who retain our senses see, whether vulgar or not, how strangely incoherent this is; how this does not solve our current national problem set, yet they suck all the oxygen out of bona-fide conversation, attracting all those meaningless, attention demanding publicity hounds to gyrate in the overflow rooms, all attempting to align themselves to benefit from OUR efforts, all while preaching the ills of earthly “stuff”. Amazingly stupid, and so very very provincial. I’m truly ashamed of the south, politically. I only hope a miracle awakens those of us left with some ability to see clearly.

Barrow GOP

February 20th, 2012
5:42 am

Every Democrat in Georgia should be out knocking on doors for Santorum. His nomination guarantees the re-election of Obama. A little work now and Dems can cruise through the general election.

Attack Dog

February 20th, 2012
5:57 am

I really hope that women, Caucasian ones in particular, and fiscal conservatives are paying more attention to this type political rhetoric and the consequences if the talk becomes law of the land.

Attack Dog

February 20th, 2012
6:00 am

I wonder when “Dixiecrats” are going to ask George Bush, John Boehner, and Mitch McConnell, what did they do with our country, because we want it back?

Attack Dog

February 20th, 2012
6:01 am

I am so glad that Santorum is the frontrunner. I knew he could do it, and remember you read it here first!

Jeff Sexton

February 20th, 2012
6:04 am

Agree with WorldProsperity. Furthermore, this church (and truly, ALL churches) needs to lose their tax exempt status. “Render unto Ceasar” and all…

Memories

February 20th, 2012
6:16 am

Santorum took pride in the $300,000 earmark he delivered for a bi-lingual health care initiative. Helping illegals avoid learning English – Very Conservative (?). Or maybe you’ll like his wife suing her chiropractor in 2003 for failing to help her loose weight – Judgement = $375,000. Here’s a guy who got thrashed in his home state by a no-name Democrat in his last election. No doubt, Obama is rooting for Santorum.

Ol' Timer

February 20th, 2012
6:27 am

“The tendency to claim God as an ally for our partisan values and ends is the source of all religious fanaticism.” ~Reinhold Niebuhr

This is scary stuff — and having the preacher place his hand on Santorum’s shoulder and pray for him and having the meeting at his church is tacit endorsement and stepping across the line of separation IMHO.

In the Book of Hezekiah it plainly says, “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing for he shall not be disappointed.”

Becky

February 20th, 2012
6:28 am

Why is the church where the rally was held tax free?

Mitch

February 20th, 2012
6:37 am

What about this church’s tax exempt status, is this separation of church and state?

Thomas Jefferson

February 20th, 2012
6:42 am

Mr. Santorum’s attack on President Obama’s religious views reminds me of the Federalist attack on me in the election of 1800. It was messy and mean-spirited — it didn’t work on me then and it won’t work on Obama now.

Ga Values...Ron Paul for Peace & Prosperity

February 20th, 2012
6:47 am

A vote for Santorum = A vote for OBAMA.

I am voting for Ron Paul today.

Real American

February 20th, 2012
7:04 am

Rick Santorum – a man so twisted he even thinks prenatal testing is a plot against mankind. LMAO…no wonder neither Colin or Condi will have anything to do with these nuts.

TomPaine

February 20th, 2012
7:11 am

If he loves God so much, why doesn’t he expedite the process to go live with him?!?!

Frederick Douglass

February 20th, 2012
7:20 am

“Find out what any people will quitely submit to, and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them”……….Frederick Douglass

My Head Ain't Right

February 20th, 2012
7:25 am

Let Santorum preach.

Let Obama lead.

Obama 2012.

CharlieATL

February 20th, 2012
7:28 am

What if…
Churches were not automatically granted eleemosynary status, but rather had to document that they spent 90% of contributions to benefit the needy to avoid taxation on their property and revenue, and this 90% could not include propagation of their religious doctrine?

[...] of his speech to the economy, and the proper role of the government under the Constitution. Senator David Shafer has been named state chairman of the Santorum campaign. Santorum won the straw poll at the Floyd County GOP mass meeting this weekend, one of many across [...]

DeborahinAthens

February 20th, 2012
7:32 am

Santorum is a horror. The lack of respect he shows for anyone that doesn’t adhere to his narrow minded philosophy. When, in this country, when someone disagreed with you, did it become right to say they were morally corrupt? The right wing conservatives say these thing about our President, a man, who, to my knowledge has lived a good life. He has never cheated on his wife, he goes to the mat for all people in his country–not just the wealthy.

Chief Media Urologist

February 20th, 2012
7:34 am

Why does Mr. Santorum have to harken back 250 years to a definition of “happiness” that suits his audience? Is it because his views on social issues stem from the same time period?

Webster defines “happiness” as:
a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy
b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience

We all know that Santorum is the anti-Smiley Face guy; wishing to impose his passionate yet stunted views to DENY us pleasurable or satisfying experiences.

Wishin

February 20th, 2012
7:41 am

I wish there were another Democratic candidate that, um, conservatives didn’t hate so much.

Chief Media Urologist

February 20th, 2012
7:53 am

The nature of the conservative is such that, no matter who the Democratic candidate is, they will despise them. They even apply that criteria to fellow conservatives who aren’t “conservative enough”.

They are the opposite of the Big Tent. Their numbers will prove it in November.

Chris

February 20th, 2012
7:55 am

The rise of Santorum is more indicative of the pending collapse of the GOP as a national party than anything else.

He’s a decent and honorable man who in better times would make a good VP or maybe secretary of some department like education or commerce. In a national election, he would be hard pressed to win a single state outside of the deep south and maybe a few midwestern ones (Iowa.)

Jim Galloway makes a good point about his rise in the polls coinciding with marginally better economic data. The problem the GOP has is that they have made the economy their number one issue without honestly addressing the causes of the worst recession since the Great Depression. This is largely because the party insiders have either no clue (unlikely) or have something to hide (more likely.) Also the GOP was complicit in many of the policy decisions that caused the recession (see Glass-Steagull.)

This is what some refer to as a “credibility trap”. If the GOP really wanted to get to the bottom of what caused the recession, they would have to pursue criminal investigations of the big banks and some private individuals. These investigations would lead directly to the party insiders and their big financial backers.

A winning strategy would be to go after the corruption and fraud that has ruined our economy. Such a campaign would not require bad economic data in order to succeed. It would point out that Obama ran as a populist and then sold out to the bankers. It would have a naturally resonant message with the American people, because they know in their hearts that the current recovery is a fraud and the criminals have not been held accountable.

Road Scholar

February 20th, 2012
7:58 am

Santorum: ”Those who believe they know best are gaining more and more authority to tell us how to live our lives,”

Look in the mirror bub!

American: ” I am tired of our leaders apologizing for America, saying that we are something less than other countries, saying that our Constitution is not good enough. We need to stop taking for granted the freedoms we have. We need to realize we live in the greatest country on this earth. We need a leader that believes in America and the people that he serves. We need a leader that believes and respects God- “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I need a leader that believes that the government was created for the people. I need a leader that understands that this earth was made for man to use and to manage- not the other way around. I need a leader that gives me hope based on freedom,…”

And that is why I will probably vote for President Obama unless another conservative other than the present group is selected.

I have to admit that Santorum is dynamic though. I just don’t like his christian taliban approach. Take an aspirin and call me when its over!

honested

February 20th, 2012
8:03 am

There may be a bright spot in this hot gas expulsion.
Ralph Hudgens was in the audience and sans-scrotum suggested that ‘being American was not about holding on to stuff’.
If Ralphie was listening, does this mean that there may be a few findings from the Ins. Comms. office in favor of the Consumer?

I realize it is a stretch, but if these guys really listen to one another (rather than show up to have their picture taken) then I guess it could happen.

Obama 2012!

Butch Cassidy

February 20th, 2012
8:06 am

In a country where the women out number the men, I can’t expect that Santorum can go far with his views on Birth Control, Abortion and women in the military. They make for nice talking points among the party faithful, but will like not play well among the general population.

Butch Cassidy

February 20th, 2012
8:09 am

Road Scholar – ” I need a leader that understands that this earth was made for man to use and to manage- not the other way around.”

Yes, apparently in Santorum world those who want to preserve the planet for future generations must be stopped at all costs. Maybe he and Newt can team up and really sell the moon colony. Afterall, if he belives that we should be managing the earth and not the other way around, the moon may be the only place we can live.

honested

February 20th, 2012
8:10 am

Chris,

It is worth noting that Glass-Steagall was passed to bring an end (at the time) to the sort of shenanigans that were allowed to occur again after it’s repeal.
All of the questionable self-dealing that caused the financial disaster can be linked (almost directly) to the repeal.
Unfortunately, it was the sort of law that the average person was completely unfamiliar with and in 2001, you could watch a person’s eyes glaze over while trying to explain it.
Whether they understand the value of sequestration of banking, investment and insurance, it should be obvious to anyone living here why doing so is necessary.

Road Scholar

February 20th, 2012
8:12 am

AJC:”A day after telling an Ohio audience that Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible,” Santorum said he wasn’t criticizing the president’s Christianity.”

Does he know what Theology means? When using theology and the bible in the same sentence, they seem related. I mean as a leader in dominating government with religion, you would think he does!

Road Scholar

February 20th, 2012
8:17 am

Butch: While man was created in the image of God, and was given free choice, I don’t think God gave man carte blanche to maim and destroy life systems, the enviroment, etc. We are “renting” the earth, since we will be gone well before the earth is no more!

Hope you had a good weekend and a enjoyable President’s Day!

c sims

February 20th, 2012
8:18 am

Santorum would turn the USA into a “theocracy”?? Really? What has the Kenyan native Obama done? Added 6.5 trillion to the debt, taken liberties granted by the Constitution and tossed them out, told everyone that they will get his healthcare (regardless of its cost) and NOTHING else, told all our (former) allies that they are no longer our allies, appointed “ambassadors” to other countries who are merely gay-supporters and Marxist sympathizers. Oh, but having Santorum in office would be “so much worse”. Ya gotta love liberals, they think everyone else is wrong and they are the only ones with a brain. Trouble is, their theme song is the scarecrow’s “If I only had a Brain.” Liberals- are you a little scared Obama’s govt tit is going to go away?

honested

February 20th, 2012
8:23 am

c sims

Scared? Only if some nutcase like sans-scrotum gets to close to the ‘button’.

Becky

February 20th, 2012
8:24 am

c sims-when one says something like kenyan native in writing about the President, the rest of what you write is totally discounted. Just saying.

Lars

February 20th, 2012
8:27 am

qouteth santorum:”A aspirin betwixt every ladies knees and a chicken in every pot.”

Road Scholar

February 20th, 2012
8:30 am

c sims: Have you ever heard the phrase: Separation of chuch and state? Wasn’t the US created to provide religeous freedom? Practice YOUR religion and let others practice theirs…or none at all. Also doesn’t it say in the bible not to judge? Bless your little heart!

Butch Cassidy

February 20th, 2012
8:30 am

c sims – ” Oh, but having Santorum in office would be “so much worse”. Ya gotta love liberals, they think everyone else is wrong and they are the only ones with a brain.”

No one was defending Obama. I’m not a huge fan of Obama, however, that doesn’t mean that I’m just going to vote for anyone who comes along. Apparently you would, which is ironic considering your statement. And by the way, before you start throwing the “liberal” card around, you may want to know your audience a little better. I’m a former card carrying member of the GOP, and would be again if they could produce some decent candidates.

Frederick Douglass

February 20th, 2012
8:31 am

c sims @ 8:18

All of the chopped liver you’ve just delivered notwithstanding, the “Kenyan native” is still going to win handily in November.

Aquagirl

February 20th, 2012
8:31 am

In a country where the women out number the men, I can’t expect that Santorum can go far with his views on Birth Control, Abortion and women in the military.

Among women voters Obama kills Republican candidates, we’re talking around a 20 percent gap. Trashing half the population is not an election strategy.

Butch Cassidy

February 20th, 2012
8:33 am

Aquagirl – “Trashing half the population is not an election strategy.”

Not to worry, with supporters like c sims, I’m sure the election is in the bag for the Republicans. LOL

Miss Priss!

February 20th, 2012
8:37 am

I’ve been to some youth baseball and soccer games at First Redeemer, and let me tell you, the bathrooms in the concession building are God-forsaken disgusting. Every time I’ve been there. Satan must be the janitor. He’s doing a wonderful job.

Brosephus

February 20th, 2012
8:38 am

Cumming, Ga. — The rise of Rick Santorum and the return of social conservatism to the Republican presidential primary is an economic indicator that bodes well for most of the country, though perhaps not for Mitt Romney.

You might wanna tell Jennifer Rubin that. According to the WaPo’s Conservative pundit, she thinks otherwise….

Is Santorum the Sharon Angle of 2012?
By Jennifer Rubin

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/post/is-santorum-the-sharon-angle-of-2012/2012/02/18/gIQAdjU8LR_blog.html

Two stories surfaced last week that amount to a loud vote of no confidence in Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee. ABC News reports that a top Republican senator wants a new choice if Santorum wins Michigan. Why? “ ‘He’d lose 35 states,’ the senator said, predicting the same fate for Newt Gingrich.”

When Conservative politicians don’t have confidence in a candidate, that should be a sign of possible trouble on the horizon.