Profile: Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum is the name on everyone's lips after pushing Mitt Romney to the narrowest of victories in the Iowa caucus. So what does he stand for and could he last the distance?

Rick Santorum is the name on everyone's lips after pushing Mitt Romney to the narrowest of victories in the Iowa caucus. So what does he stand for and could he last the distance?

Rick Santorum speaks at his caucus night rally in Johnson, Iowa.

A mere nine votes prevented Rick Santorum from pulling off an improbable victory in Iowa.

The 53-year-old former Pennsylvania senator was written off just a few weeks ago, before a surge in the polls was followed by second place in the caucus, just behind Mitt Romney.

Just after midnight, in a speech that probably introduced himself to many observers for the first time, he thanked his supporters.

"By standing up and being bold and leading, leading with that burden and responsibility that you have to be first, you have taken the first step of taking back this country."

Mr Santorum represents the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party.

This is a group that has demonstrated its dissatisfaction with the moderate frontrunner Mr Romney by shuffling its allegiances among so-called Not Romney candidates continuously for months.

But while the former Massachusetts governor has a multi-million-dollar campaigning machine, Santorum's organisation is being run on a comparative shoestring.

Born in Virginia to an Italian father and a mother of Irish-Italian descent, Santorum was raised in the blue-collar town of Butler, Pennsylvania.

Santorum's two Catholic parents worked at the local Veteran's Administration Hospital, where his mother was a nurse.

His brother once said that one of the key childhood lessons their father, a psychologist, gave them was to think positive.

He said that as a child, Rick had a deep competitive streak which was evident when he played baseball, chess and board games.

After graduating from Penn State University with a degree in political science, Mr Santorum earned a master's degree in business administration in Pittsburgh and subsequently a law degree.

Terry Madonna, a professor of politics for 30 years in Pennsylvania, first met Mr Santorum in the 1980s when he worked for a Republican state senator.

"He was strong-willed, he knew what he was and what he wanted to accomplish. Sometimes what he said and did bordered on arrogance but he has strong principles.

"You may not agree with him but he's consistent and persistent. He's not a hypocrite."

Aged just 32, Santorum was elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 and four years later took Pennsylvania's Senate seat.

He held it for 12 years, making his name as a staunchly conservative politician. Along the way, he has provoked criticism for his strong opposition to gay rights.

In 2005, Time magazine named the father of seven as one of America's 25 most influential evangelicals.

But a year later, he lost his seat in Congress by a huge margin, but he said his defeat was part of the national backlash post-Iraq and not a reflection on his own service.

Since then, he has been practising law and preparing for a presidential run.

Murdoch approval

The pre-Iowa Republican race did not give Mr Santorum much of the spotlight as a succession of others vied to be torch-bearer for the social conservatives.

That will change now, and he can expect the kind of scrutiny that comes with being a frontrunner.

He will need to raise much more money to compete with Mr Romney in the weeks and months ahead.

And he won't be able to apply the same focus to New Hampshire and South Carolina that he has to Iowa, where he campaigned hard, speaking at more than 350 campaign events.

But money and support could be coming in, and he already has the endorsement of Rupert Murdoch.

Prior to the vote in Iowa, the influential media mogul and owner of Fox News used his new Twitter feed to signal his approval: "Can't resist this tweet, but all Iowans think about Rick Santorum. Only candidate with genuine big vision for country."

But Professor Madonna, who has met Mr Santorum regularly over the years, doubts whether the momentum gained from Iowa will be enough.

"I don't think he will last but this has been such a strange election year - we all have a sense that we don't fully know what's going to happen.

"No-one will out-work him and we've yet to see whether coming second brings in a flood of money."