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Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum says he's anti-Satan
 
I just heard a new joke about Rick Santorum, and it goes like this:
A professor, a liberal, and a mainline Protestant walk into a bar ... and Rick Santorum says "Hi Satan!"
The basis of the joke: Santorum's 2008 speech warning that Satan was attacking the United States of America—and had already established a foothold in the academic, political, and religious worlds.

That's not the kind of thing you typically (well, ever) hear from presidential candidates, and Mitt Romney's allies in the conservative media are hoping it convinces Republicans that Santorum is unelectable. Even Santorum-friendly Rush Limbaugh thinks Santorum has a problem. It will certainly be a topic during tonight's debate, and how Santorum addresses it will go a long way to determining the fate of his candidacy. Last night, he offered a preview:

“You know … I’m a person of faith. I believe in good and evil. I think if somehow or another because you’re a person of faith you believe in good and evil is a disqualifier for president, we’re going to have a very small pool of candidates who can run for president,” Santorum said.

Santorum said questioning whether he believed Satan was attacking America was “not relevant.”

“Look, guys, these are questions that are not relevant to what’s — what’s being discussed in America today. What we’re talking about in America today is trying to get America growing. That’s what my speeches are about, that’s what we’re going to talk about in this campaign,” Santorum said.

The first part of that seems like the kind of answer that would be very effective in the context of tonight's debate, but the second part—when he says the questions are not relevant—could get him in trouble. Perhaps Santorum can make the case that what he said isn't central to his campaign, but if he follows Newt Gingrich's model of suggesting that questions themselves are out of bounds, it's going to blow up in his face—these aren't questions about his personal sex life, these are questions about what he believes in, and that makes them entirely legitimate.

We'll see how he handles it tonight at 8 PM ET when Republicans begin their 20th debate of the 2012 campaign. Whatever he ends up saying, it will probably define the debate.

7:07 AM PT: Sarah Palin weighs in to defend Rick Santorum. If Republicans embrace her reaction, this whole thing could turn into a big boost for Santorum heading into Michigan and Arizona.

Originally posted to The Jed Report on Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 06:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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