Despite winning almost a dozen primaries and caucuses in 2012, Rick Santorum is not bothered by the fact he is not one of the first names mentioned as a formidable 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
"America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race," said the former Pennsylvania senator in a Washington Post
While he may be embracing his "underdog" status, Santorum is not starting from scratch, having gained his "bona fides" on social and moral issues during the 2012 race.
"We’re just obviously in a better place right now. Our message will be a lot more focused this time than it was last time," said Santorum, who has taken a more populist tone, such as in his recent criticism of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration and the fight against the Islamic State.
While the business community and immigration activists back Obama's plan, Santorum says the average American is caught in the middle.
"But in between these two forces are average Americans who have borne the brunt of this economic recession with stagnant wages and a decline in median income.
"Under our current immigration system and de facto amnesty for existing illegal aliens (this administration simply doesn’t deport anyone unless they have committed another serious crime in the U.S.) we have flooded America with competition for our lower-skilled workers," he wrote last week in a Washington Times
He told the Post's Karen Tumulty: "It’s very much heart of America, average Americans who have found a place where they see someone who will stand up and fight for them. If the Republican Party has a future — and I sometimes question if it does — it’s in middle America. It’s not in corporate America."
Santorum is also using his political action committee, Patriot Voices, to further define himself as the candidate fighting for the average American.
For example, last month Patriot Voices
launched the second annual "Made in the USA" Christmas Challenge, a campaign to encourage Americans to buy goods and gifts U.S.-made and to shop at local small businesses.
"This Christmas season, millions of hard-working families are struggling to make ends meet. If we hope to lift up all Americans, we must first support those families and the jobs they hold. This means supporting American companies and American-made products at the check-out line," the former presidential candidate said.
Even with a revamped campaign message, Santorum is facing an uphill battle for the nomination.
In early polls taken in Iowa, Santorum found himself toward the back of the presidential pack, trailing Huckabee, who leads the field with 15.7 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (8.3 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (8.5 percent) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (8 percent) are also ahead of Santorum, who had the support of 6 percent of Iowa voters.
Santorum will be one of the featured speakers at the "Iowa Freedom Summit" in January, according to a press release from Citizens United
, which is co-hosting the event.
The gathering of conservatives in Des Moines on Jan.
24 will feature other potential GOP candidates, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
According to the Des Moines Register
, Santorum has visited the Hawkeye State at least nine times this year.
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