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The Ticket

Santorum working to fix his image: ‘I’m not angry’

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Santorum (AP)

Rick Santorum swears he's not an angry guy.

The former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential candidate has made a name for himself on the campaign trail as the lead attack dog, and while the strategy has given him an opportunity to find his own place in the debates, it's also sparked a widespread perception of Santorum that he says isn't true.

Santorum's tendency to go on the offensive has earned him a reputation, he acknowledges, for seeming angry, especially on television.

"I hear this comment from a lot of people: 'You're so different in how you come across on television than you are in person,' " Santorum, a staunch social conservative and one of the lead culture warriors throughout the 1990s, told The Ticket in an interview. "They say I come across as sort of intense, and almost a little angry and edgy."

"I am intense. I care a lot about these issues," he insisted. "I'm not angry. I'm not angry at anybody. I like everybody. But when you have that intensity, it can come across as edgy, angry and so that's a real part of the process you have to learn. It's not how you feel, it's what people see, and that's an important lesson to learn."

Indeed, Santorum often finds himself discussing the faults of other candidates, perhaps even more than he talks about his own successes. He's typically one of the first to take a swipe at his opponents and he hasn't spared anyone of the course of the campaign: He hit Texas Gov. Rick Perry hard in August for supporting a vaccine mandate, went after former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for not signing an anti-abortion pledge, slammed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich for not initially supporting the Republican budget plan, criticized Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul for their lack of influence in Congress, and last week he took on businessman Herman Cain for his tax plan.

His level of intensity even earned him a parody spot in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch that portrayed him as confused, frustrated and even scared.

But Santorum says he's aware of the problem--and he's working on it.

"I was a very bad poker player," Santorum said. "When I'm feeling something, you know it. Part of life is not wearing everything on your sleeve, knowing the appropriate time to express passion and intensity and when it's just best to give a little different-style answer. . . . That for me has been a growing process, because I am a pretty passionate guy."

He may need to act fast. Santorum announced his presidential bid four months ago, but his campaign has struggled to raise money or rise in the polls. The candidate raised only $582,000 in the last quarter, and in a recent interview, he said they hadn't pulled in much more this quarter either. In most national surveys, Santorum typically ranks near the bottom, around 2 percent.

For Santorum, it's Iowa or bust. The Hawkeye State will likely hold its caucuses--the first in the nation--in early January. Santorum has put much of his campaign resources into the state, and even moved his family there for a while this summer.

"I don't think at this point that we feel we have to win [in Iowa], Santorum said. "I think we have to finish in the top three and perform well. First or second would be awesome--and third so long as it's not 20 points behind the first two would be a good place finish for us too."

If he doesn't make the top three, Santorum suggested that he may call it quits.

"We'll have to make a realistic assessment whether it's possible to keep going," he said.

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