Rick Santorum: 'Faith & Passion' Part of Politics

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NORTHERN VIRGINIA -- The first official Republican presidential primary debate takes place Thursday, May 5 in Greenville, S.C.

One of those candidates taking part in the debate will be former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn. Santorum os seriously exploring a run for the presidency and you can be sure that when he runs, he will do so with passion.

Santorum's life is all about passion. Whether it deals with his large Catholic family, his politics, or his belief that this generation may leave the United States more vulnerable.

"We may leave America weaker. I believe that can be changed like anything else but you have to get out on the field. You can't sit on the sidelines," Santorum told CBN News.

Agressive Campaigning

Santorum sure isn't sitting still. He has made some 40 visits to the early presidential primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, more than any other potential candidate.

That strategy paid off in South Carolina where he won a recent GOP straw poll. But national polls show him in the low single digits. If Santorum is going to win, he'll need to perform well early on.

"He's been spending a ton of time in Iowa, a ton of time in New Hampshire. If he doesn't make a bang in one of those two states, he's not going to have the kind of organization that's going to get him through the following states," Washington Post Political Writer Aaron Blake said.

Santorum knows that whatever his chances, voters must feel comfortable with the decision.

"People say why are you running? The only reason that I would run is because you feel like that's what you're being called to do," Santorum said.

Founding Fathers Real Intent?

There's no doubt that Santorum calls it as he sees it when talking to voters. He tells crowds that the separation of church and state is not what the founding fathers intended.

He blames much of that push on President John F. Kennedy when he tried to convince voters that his Catholic views wouldn't interfere with his presidential duties.

"Kennedy ushered in an era where faith was eventually forced out of the public square, that it was okay to bring any ideas unless they were motivated by faith. It was the starting gun of this movement," Santorum explained.

Family's Loss Part of God's Plan

The starting gun to Santorum's national political career came pretty early. As a member of the House of Representatives by age 30 and the U.S. Senate by 34, he was a rising star. But then, he lost his Senate seat in 2006.

Yet that devastating political loss can't compare to the loss suffered by him and his wife Karen 15 years ago. Santorum still remembers the day he received the horrible news from the doctor.

"I'll never forget what he said. He looked at us and said, 'Your son has a fatal defect and is going to die,'" the former Pennsylvania senator recalled. "Just like that and we were obviously just crushed."

Little Gabriel Santorum lived just two hours, but Karen Santorum saw God in the middle of it all.

"In the end, God wanted him back, but what I know with all my heart and soul is that every baby has a purpose, a God-given purpose and every life has value," she told CBN News.

The Santorum's wanted their children to understand that value, so they brought Gabriel home from the hospital after he had passed.

Santorum said there was a reason for that: the family needed closure.

"We wanted them to know that there was a baby and that his life was precious and that baby in the womb was real," he explained. "It doesn't just come out and all of a sudden it's a baby. But that they had a little brother and they would remember him."

Karen Santorum kept a diary of their experiences and later wrote about them in a book called, "Letters to Gabriel." The blessings to others ensued.

"It has helped parents to choose life. It's helped them to give their children a chance," she said. "It's helped to give them guidance and comfort and I believe with all my heart that that was God's plan."

Finding Peace

Almost ten years later, in 2008, along came daughter Isabella Maria Santorum. They call her, "Bella."

Simply put, she's a miracle baby. Born with a rare genetic disorder, she wasn't supposed to see her first birthday. She's now almost 3-years-old. She's beating the odds.

"God clearly has a plan for this child. She is so beautiful. She is a ray of sunshine in our lives," Karen said.

Bella has also had quite the impact on her passionate and fiery father.

"I know some people may find this hard to believe but she has gentled my condition. She's my little sweetheart," Santorum confessed.

While their love for Bella is unwavering, there still was at times, anger directed at God. Indeed, there was a short period of time when Karen Santorum felt God abandoned them.

"It was after her birth and I did very much have them. I must admit," Karen said.

"I felt like he had thrown me in the back corner of the desert and forgot about me," she continued. "I think we all go through desert periods where you think, 'Where are you Lord? Here I am and I need you and I feel like you're not here.'"

"And you were also angry that you felt that why would God do this to our little girl? Not just to us, but why did you do this to her?" Santorum said.

"I think a lot of parents go through this where they are asking the why and there is no why. Once I let that go and it was a complete abandonment to our Lord.once you do that, there is a peace," Karen said.

Ready for the Political Fight

The Santorum's have found peace at home. But in politics, that's a different story. Karen said she definitely has some battle scars, but appears ready for another go round.

"For me it's not just another political race. It's about going on to the battlefield and defending God's truth in the world," she told CBN News.

Santorum has done just that during his political career and has felt the heat. For example, opponents have called him a "hater" because he's outspoken about the sin of homosexuality.

It has made him a long list of enemies, yet Santorum said he prays for them as the Bible commands him to.

"It's hard to do but you've got to do it. When I read all this stuff about how I hate people: 'You're a hater. You hate this person. You hate this person because of this. You hate this person because of this'.," Rick explained.

"It's funny these people who say that. I'm praying for these people. Now if I hated you, why would I be praying for you?" Santorum said smiling.

When Santorum does officially enter the presidential race, it will be a tough road. But he said he's willing to make the journey to help America reclaim its greatness.

"America has the belief in every person being given rights by God, using those rights to serve Him," he told CBN News.

"And to serve our country, to serve their fellow man because, in fact, we are our brother's keeper -- that system from the bottom up would produce greatness," he said.

Santorum hopes he'll be able to deliver that message effectively in the upcoming GOP primaries.

--Published May 4, 2011

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.