Rick Santorum says GOP has ‘become tone deaf to America’

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Former Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the family leadership summit in Ames, Iowa Saturday Aug. 10, 2013.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during the family leadership summit in Ames, Iowa Saturday Aug. 10, 2013.
Justin Hayworth/AP

Rick Santorum is reintroducing himself to Iowa–and showing himself to be utterly unacquainted with the concept of irony.

Over the weekend Santorum weighed in on the ongoing GOP self-analysis after its 2012 loss, saying the party just isn’t listening hard enough to regular Americans.

“I think we have become tone deaf to America,” Santorum said last week at one event, per Politico. On Saturday morning, he added at the FAMiLY LEADER event, “My challenge to the Republican Party is to take a page out of our book and start putting forth an agenda of ideas to raise up folks who want to vote for us. You saw from the last election, they don’t want to vote for President Obama, but at least he went out and talked to them. At least he went out and spoke about them. We didn’t do that. We marginalized them.”

The last presidential campaign only ended nine months ago, but just in case you need a refresher: Santorum himself was responsible for plenty of that marginalizing. That is, if you think female Americans count. They helped re-elect Barack Obama with a historic gender gap, the biggest one Gallup had ever seen in a half-century. And that was partly because the Republicans’ extreme rhetoric on contraceptive access, spearheaded by Santorum himself, left plenty of opportunities for the president to present himself as a defender of women’s rights.

Of course, if you ask Rand Paul, this is all a conspiracy between Democrats and the media. In a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera last week, Paul fought the last war, hearkening back to a Republican primary debate where birth control access loomed large.

“[George] Stephanopoulos asks an obscure question about Griswold and birth control when no Republicans were bringing up anything about trying to put limits on birth control…, it was a weird thing to bring up in a debate, and nobody understood why. But then for two years, the President’s campaign then ran ads saying that the Republicans were against people allowing birth control. So you wonder if there was a concerted action between a former Democrat operative and basically the President’s campaign.”

But it wasn’t just a war of words: At stake were insurance coverage for contraceptives, federal aid to Planned Parenthood, and legal access to abortion, to name a few. Every single Republican candidate opposed all three.

And while Mitt Romney seemed fairly reluctant to get in the ring on the issues–a years-long headache for him–Santorum needed no prompting. “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea,” he volunteered in an interview with a Christian conservative blog in Iowa in 2011. “Many in the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception’s okay.’ It’s not okay because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

These are all views with their own constituency, particularly among Iowa Republican primary voters. The problem for Republicans has been that what happens in Iowa doesn’t always stay there.

By the way, the FAMiLY LEADER is more than just an Iowa social-conservative standby with an unfortunate capitalization strategy. In that same primary season, it drew criticism for a “Marriage Vow” that not only repudiated gay marriage but also claimed African-American families had been better off during slavery. The original petition read, alongside condemnations of pornography and divorce, ”Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”

Among the signers of that petition, before the FAMiLY LEADER hastily redacted the portion about slavery: Rick Santorum.  African-Americans are, of course, another constituency Republicans have said they want to reach out to in the wake of their 2012 trouncing. Is that what outreach looks like?

Rick Santorum says GOP has 'become tone deaf to America'

Updated