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Under Media Glare, Santorum's Record Draws Closer Look

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum talks with a customer while surrounded by news crews as he pays a visit to customers at the Tilt 'n Diner in Tilton, NH, on Jan. 5.
Rod Lamkey Jr.
The Washington Times /Landov
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum talks with a customer while surrounded by news crews as he pays a visit to customers at the Tilt 'n Diner in Tilton, NH, on Jan. 5.

Now that he's getting his moment at the front of the GOP pack, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is drawing the kind of scrutiny he's escaped during all those lonely months at the bottom of the polls.

On Morning Edition, NPR's Jeff Brady took a closer lookat Santorum's reputation in Pennsylvania. And on Thursday's All Things Considered, Andrea Seabrook examined his record in the Senate, including his support for a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion.

Friday morning, the New York Times digs into Santorum's post-Senate career. As the Times reports, after he lost his re-election bid in 2006, Santorum found consulting work with energy, health and lobbying companies he'd backed while in office:

"Certainly, Mr. Santorum would not be the first politician to take the revolving door to greener pastures in the private sector," the Times reports. "But a look at his record both in and out of the Senate finds overlaps between the two, suggesting that connections he made while in office helped soften the sting of his unexpected re-election defeat."

The piece does note Santorum's involvement in what became known as the K Street project, an effort to fill key lobbying and trade association positions with loyal Republicans. (It does not mention, however, that Santorum also appeared on the short-lived 2003 HBO series about Washington influence peddling, K Street.)

Now that he's landed in New Hampshire, where voters are less friendly to social conservatives, Santorum's stance on social issues is also getting a closer look.

Thursday night in New Hampshire, as Liz Halloran reported, Santorum drew fire from college students over his position on gay marriage.

He has also declined to back away from recent comments he has made on birth control, like this onereported by a blogger in October:

"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." And also, "Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be."

Santorum reiterated his support for letting states outlaw contraception in an interview this week with ABC News' Jake Tapper.

And on Morning Edition, Mara Liasson tells Linda Wertheimer that while Democrats would love to draw voters' attention to social issues, voters have other concerns. "I think the economy is going to be the No. 1 issue," Liasson says.

Interestingly, there are reports out of Iowa Friday morning that could make Santorum's new status at the top of the field official: results from Tuesday night's caucuses are not yet official and, with Mitt Romney the victor by just eight votes, one allegation suggests that the winner of the caucuses could be in doubt.

Iowa GOP chair Matt Strawn issued a statement late Thursday asserting that he did not expect the overall outcome to change. And as Santorum told Nate Silver of the Times' blogFiveThirtyEight in an interview at his New Hampshire hotel, the official results are beside the point now:

Mr. Santorum expressed a cheery indifference as to whether he had technically won the caucuses. "I always said in Iowa that I had to beat Perry and Bachmann," he said. "I didn't really ever think I was going to win given where I was two weeks out. It just was fun watching it going up and down."

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Debra Rosenberg