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5 Things To Know

5 Things You Should Know About Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum, R-Pa., won Iowa in 2012. He faces a more crowded field this time around. J. David Ake/AP hide caption

toggle caption J. David Ake/AP

Rick Santorum, R-Pa., won Iowa in 2012. He faces a more crowded field this time around.

J. David Ake/AP

Updated to reflect that Santorum is now officially in the race.

After taking the silver medal in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is making a second bid for the White House. But Santorum faces a very different — and much larger — field than four years ago.

Santorum is the seventh candidate to officially jump in, and well more than 20 GOP hopefuls could get in. Santorum is known for his staunch social conservatism, vocally opposing same-sex marriage and abortion rights. But he also appeals to a blue-collar sensibility, a bloc that was crucial to his two wins in the Keystone State. His 2014 book was titled Blue Collar Conservatives: Recommitting to an America that Works.

Santorum is banking on his 2012 supporters still being with him, but that's not a given. After such a surprise finish last time, the bar will be higher for Santorum to prove his mettle — and he's still only polling near the bottom tier.

Here's what you need to know about Santorum:

1. He won the 2012 Iowa caucuses — but not officially until days later
Santorum's last presidential bid might have turned out differently if he had gotten the typical post-Iowa winning boost. Unfortunately for the former Pennsylvania senator, he wasn't declared the victor until more than two weeks later. Under pressure to name a winner on Election Night, Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn pronounced former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the eventual nominee, had won on Jan. 3 by just eight votes, despite uncertainty about missing ballots and late tallies. Sixteen days later, though, a new tally showed it was Santorum who had come out on top by 34 votes. Unfortunately for Santorum, attention had already moved on to other primaries. It's now something Santorum jokes about on the trail in Iowa, reminding voters he was the winner four years ago, but that he wishes it had been on Election Night.

2. Santorum has seven children, including a daughter with special needs
The devout Roman Catholic and his wife, Karen, have seven children — three daughters and four sons — ranging in age from 7 to 24. His youngest, Bella, was born with a condition called Trisomy 18, a rare and usually lethal disorder in which a child has an extra chromosome. It's related to Down syndrome, but is far more deadly. Just half survive a week after birth, and fewer than 10 percent make it to their first birthday. Santorum spoke often about Bella on the 2012 campaign trail, giving his well-known opposition to abortion a more personal element. Earlier this year, he and Karen wrote a book called Bella's Gift about their shared trials and triumphs as they cared for their daughter. It wasn't the usual pre-presidential tome, instead offering rare insight into how his wife was frustrated in the way in which he introduced Bella into his campaign narrative — talking openly and honestly about how he initially treated her differently from his other children and kept her at a distance, hoping it wouldn't hurt so much if they lost her. An eighth child, Gabriel, was born prematurely in 1994 and died at birth.

3. The Republican lost his Senate re-election bid in 2006 by nearly 18 points
Santorum's bid for a third term ended up being a thumping. Running in a heavily Democratic year that was propelled by frustration with the Bush administration and the Iraq War, Santorum lost in a landslide to Democrat Bob Casey Jr., son of a legendary former governor. It was the first electoral loss for Santorum, who was first elected to the House in 1990 and then defeated moderate Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford in the 1994 GOP wave to ascend to the Senate. He easily won re-election in 2000 against nominal opposition, but six years later, his luck ran out. By then, the state was also changing — becoming more Democratic and diverse. He stuck behind his uncompromising social positions, but Casey successfully hammered him — painting him as having a rigid ideology and for his controversial comments on the family structure.

4. His 2012 bid was bankrolled by wealthy donor Foster Friess, who has said he'll be with him again in 2016
Friess, a longtime conservative Wyoming donor who made his money through mutual funds, switched his allegiance from Romney to the upstart Santorum last cycle — in a big way. He gave more than $2 million to the Red, White and Blue Fund, a superPAC backing Santorum in 2012. Friess has already indicated to the Washington Post he would back Santorum again in 2016. Friess has said he admires Santorum's positions on social issues and his religious conservatism, but his own beliefs and comments have gotten Friess in trouble. In February 2012, when asked about contraception, he joked that "back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn't that costly."

5. Just Google him (but not at work)
The politician has the unflattering distinction of having a word named after him — and not in a good way. Outraged by Santorum's opposition to same-sex marriage and condemnation of homosexuality, in 2003 openly gay columnist Dan Savage coined the term "santorum." It's no longer the top search result you'll get when you Google the GOP hopeful, but it's still right near the top, and it's an issue that Santorum has had to address in the past.

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