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Rick Santorum might have been muscled off the main stage of national politics, but he is far from forgotten.
About 250 people poured into the New Covenant Fellowship Church in Mechanicsburg on Wednesday to see the man that put the fear of God into the 2012 Mitt Romney campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.
But as much as they were there to show Pennsylvania's former U.S. senator and failed 2012 presidential candidate that he still mattered to them, Santorum was there to promote a faith-based Christmas movie his film distribution company will release Friday.
The Christmas Candle is an all-British production that missed the window of big Hollywood film companies' holiday schedule but was snapped up by Santorum's Echolight Studios.
Poised and conversational, Santorum talked about how his presidential campaign produced unexpected outcomes, such as reluctantly schmoozing with hyper-liberal Hollywood actor George Clooney.
But Santorum acknowledged that that fame, coupled with his private production and distribution of Christian-themed films, helps keep his name circulating and viable for a possible 2016 presidential bid.
Anytime you can go out there and promote good things like being the miracle in your community, living good and faithful lives, it can't hurt and it should help, he said after screening the film and discussing it with the audience gathered in the church.
But while Santorum said he won't decide on a 2016 run for about another year, he noted that his name is never mentioned by establishment GOP figures despite .
I finished second in the race for president, he told the audience. But you won't see one establishment Republican ever mention my name as a possible 2016 candidate. They don't want me around.
Later, after lingering at the church longer than planned because a scheduled appearance on CNN was bumped for a segment on George Zimmerman, Santorum elaborated.
I sort of expected that, he said. They go back to the same old thing. They have certain ideals about what kind of candidate that they want and they don't want any candidate that has outspoken beliefs on issues that they think should not be in the party platform.
And he pointed to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as a prime example.
Because President Barack Obama's signature health care law was based on Romney's prototype in Massachusetts, he argued that the GOP was hamstrung in attacking the measure as a campaign tactic.
We had the opportunity to make that a big part of the election in 2012 and we chose someone who couldn't do that and didn't do that, Santorum said of Romney. The 2010 elections was all about health care and I think you'll see the 2014 election will be all about health care, and the one election that wasn't about health care was the one that should have been about health care. And you
And though most national pundits see the national GOP out of step with emerging national sentiments on issues such as gay marriage and Marijuana use, Santorum said the debates within the party particularly those being instigated by the tea party movement make the Republican Party uniquely appealing.
I think there's a real battle going on out there, he said.
The [establishment wing of the] Republican Party says we've got to broaden our tent, he added. If our tent gets any broader, it's going to collapse. We have a lot of varied interests in the Republican Party and that makes for a healthy discussion and debate which you never hear on the other side. You never hear any kind of departure from the dogma of the Democratic Party.
We are a party of divergent views, but the party must stand for something, and it must stand for something that cohesively fits together, in a workable world view that is a governable world view, Santorum added. And the party, as it's constituted now, does that and does it well.
His non-campaign persona and professional activities seem like they constitute a workable platform from which to launch another campaign for the White House.
But we won't know if he's in again until the man himself calls for action.
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