Sunday, April 16, 2006

SANTORUM FACING MULTIPLE OBSTACLES IN RE-ELECTION BID

Everything was in place for the photo op. Sen. Rick Santorum joined an assembly line of volunteers boxing up dry goods at a warehouse that distributes food to thousands of low-income Pennsylvanians.

But the Pittsburgh television news crew that was supposed to capture the recent campaign event for that evening's broadcast was nowhere in sight. The two-term Republican appeared unfazed, diligently packing his corrugated boxes with exactly 20 pounds of cereal, crackers and cookies as though he wanted to master the task, not bothering to chat with the people at his side.

Democrats hope the photo mix-up will be a metaphor for Santorum's campaign against state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. in this fall's Senate race, the most fiercely contested in the country. Since 1990, Santorum, 47, has proven to be a canny, come-from-behind campaigner who has risen to the Senate GOP's third-highest leadership post. But this year, Democrats say, his charmed political life may end as he faces an unusually imposing set of challenges.

They start with the sagging, 38 percent approval rating of President Bush, to whom Santorum is closely tied. Pennsylvanians also say Santorum has suffered self-inflicted wounds since 2000, when he won reelection despite the belief of some that he is too conservative for this centrist state. He published a book that seemed to slight public schools and mothers who work outside the home. He endured widespread criticism when it was learned in 2004 that Pennsylvania paid about $70,000 through an online program to educate his children at their home in Leesburg.

FULL STORY

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