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Rick Santorum defends views on working women

The Republican candidate disputes contentions that his socially conservative stances could alienate some women if he became the party nominee.

February 12, 2012|By Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times
  • Rick Santorum disputes the idea that his socially conservative views could be an obstacle to winning votes from working women.
Rick Santorum disputes the idea that his socially conservative views could… (Eric Gay, Associated Press )

Rick Santorum, still enjoying a surge in fundraising and attention after winning three states last week in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination, pushed back Sunday against the idea that his socially conservative views could alienate working women.

Many pundits have suggested that Santorum's views on gay marriage, abortion, contraception and working women could present formidable obstacles in attracting moderate and independent voters if he were to become the GOP nominee.

As an example, NBC's "Meet the Press" host David Gregory read a passage from Santorum's 2005 book, "It Takes a Family," which was written as a response to Hillary Rodham Clinton's 1996 best-seller, "It Takes a Village."

"The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness," the passage says.

Santorum said that his mother worked and even earned more than his father — "somewhat unusual in the 1950s and 1960s." He said that section of the book was co-written by his wife, Karen, a former nurse and lawyer who left the workforce to stay home with the couple's seven children.

When his wife quit working, he said, she "felt very much like society and those radical feminists that I was referring to were not affirming her choice.… All I'm saying is … we should affirm both choices.… That's what the book says, and I stand by what I said."

Santorum also said he would release his tax returns on Monday or Tuesday.

With his Republican rivals taking the day off, Santorum had the Sunday morning political talk shows to himself.

On Saturday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's wins in straw polls at the Maine caucuses and the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington threatened to overshadow Santorum's trio of victories. But, at least at CPAC, one figure generated more audience enthusiasm than either of them: former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Palin was in Washington to remind Republicans that she still represents an insurgent force that the party establishment ignores at its peril: the tea party movement, and especially its supporters who were elected to Congress in the Republican sweep of November 2010.

"They've been ostracized. They've been dismissed. They've been lied about by the president," Palin told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday." "We would hope that the leadership in Congress, especially within our own party … would start at least accepting and really appreciating what these tea party members have done. And I would like to see them in leadership positions."

Palin also offered her assessment of the GOP presidential field.

On Saturday at CPAC, she said that Republicans were looking for a candidate who could "instinctively turn right to the Constitution," which many read as a knock on Romney, who brought universal healthcare to Massachusetts and has changed his position on some of the social issues Republicans hold dear. "It's too late in the game to teach it or spin in," she said. "It has to be there."

"Do you trust that Romney is an instinctive conservative?" Wallace asked.

"I'm not convinced, and I don't think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced," Palin said. "And that is why you don't see Romney get over that hump.

"I trust that his idea of conservatism is evolving. And I base this on a pretty moderate past … even in some cases a liberal past."

Palin praised Santorum for his consistently conservative positions on social issues and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for his "historical knowledge."

She was far less enthusiastic when asked about the upcoming HBO movie "Game Change," based on the best-selling book about the 2008 campaign that portrayed Palin on the brink of an emotional collapse after Sen. John McCain tapped her as his running mate.

"Let's watch," Wallace said, before showing a clip that featured Palin played by Julianne Moore.

"Must we?" Palin said.

"Millions of people are going to see that," Wallace replied.

"Well, I'm sorry that millions of people are going to waste their time," Palin said. She said she was ambivalent rather than angry. "And I'm sure they have more productive and constructive things to do."

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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