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HEY, IT WAS THE ’90s

The Huffington Post

Rick Santorum Cast Himself As ‘Progressive Conservative,’ Non-Reaganite In First Campaign

Making his first run for Congress in the early 1990s, this candidate promised not to be a Reagan Republican, fashioned himself a progressive conservative, said he was impartial on unions and stayed vague on abortion rights.

It’s a description that fits Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whose past political pursuits in that state have weighed down his current presidential ambitions. But in this case, it applies to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, whose own political origins have been explored in far less depth.

In his circuitous path to the top of the primary polls, Santorum has presented himself as the pure conservative alternative to Romney. But an extensive review of newspaper archives and interviews with officials involved in his successful 1990 congressional race against Rep. Doug Walgren (D-Pa.) suggests that Santorum was cut from a similar GOP cloth as his current adversary.

Take, for instance, a November 3, 1990, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article, in which Santorum distanced himself from Ronald Reagan.

Santorum insisted that he was the one who is more in touch. ‘From child care to taxes, we’re right for this district. This district has had enough of government sticking its nose constantly in our business,’ he said, insisting nonetheless that he is not a Reagan Republican.

The Reagan line echoes Romney’s own memorable remark from his 1994 Senate campaign, when he said that he didn’t “want to return to Reagan-Bush.”

Santorum reportedly made a similar statement on a separate occasion. According to an October 28, 1990 piece in the Pittsburgh Press, the afternoon newspaper that eventually became part of thePost-Gazette, he described himself as a “progressive conservative” in his campaign manual.

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