Rick Santorum appears on Piers Morgan Tonight

But has he done himself any favours?

In anticipation of last night's South Carolina primary, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight to talk policy, principles and family.

Santorum rightly predicted that he wouldn't win South Carolina - he finished third behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. However, he said he still hopes for a one on one with Mitt Romney and despite Romney and Gingrich's bigger budgets confidently stated that it's "game on" in Florida.

In terms of tactics Santorum said: "I'm a slow and steady kind of guy" and underlined the contrasts between himself and fellow conservative Newt Gingrich. When Morgan asked him "who would you rather be up against, the nice Newt Gingrich or the new nasty Newt?" a fired up Santorum told him: "That's the issue - you don't know what you're going to get with Newt." He admitted: "I'm not the guy you're going to be wowed with, but I'm steady and I'll fight for my convictions." "Steady Eddie" Santorum set himself apart from his fellow Republicans; branding himself as the antithesis to temperamental Newt, flip flopper Mitt Romney and "barking" (Morgan's word) Ron Paul.

He is also in stark contrast to former Republican hopefuls Herman Cain and Rick Perry who were famous for their embarrassing gaffes. Who can forget Cain's confusion over Libya and Perry forgetting which agencies he'd eliminate if he were president? Unquestionably Santorum is a smart man, not hiding behind a Reagan-esque grin or using southern charm to mask the fact that he's not in the know about all the issues - he's a man who knows his stuff.

But the real fight, Santorum stressed, is against Barack Obama - a man with whom Santorum was less than impressed when he worked with him in the Senate. "I didn't like the way he conducted himself," Santorum said. Unsurprisingly, then, Santorum's attitude and approach is at odds with the current president. While he may not ooze charisma and charm, the American people may welcome this and see him as the antidote to Obama's all style no substance leadership for which he has been criticised.

Santorum shone when he spoke about foreign policy, an area where fellow wannabe nominee Ron Paul drastically falls short. Morgan pushed him on Iraq asking him whether he, too, would have invaded and after a few attempts at evading the question Santorum admitted that he would have made the same decision. After 9/11 Santorum said his biggest concern was Iran, not Iraq - and it still is. "I would bomb Iran if I had to - no question," he said.

On Libya, Santorum said: "I wouldn't have gone into Libya - I would never put U.S. troops on the ground unless our national security was threatened." He criticised Obama's "indecisiveness," despite Morgan's observation that no US lives were lost and Gaddafi was successfully killed.

Less than inspiring, however, were Santorum's views on issues such as abortion and gay marriage due to his inability to separate his religion from his policies. "Life begins at conception" and abortion should be banned in every case - even rape and incest, Santorum stressed unequivocally. Morgan, who is famous for asking the tough questions, asked him how he would feel if his daughter was raped and "begged to have an abortion", to which Santorum replied: "I would council her to do the right thing" because "life is gift, no matter how horribly it is created." It's clear that for Santorum, his political principles win every time.

Santorum's wife, Karen, also joined the interview, saying that the biggest misconception about her husband is that "he's not nice." Santorum has certainly disproved that misconception during the interview, coming across as a likeable guy with none of the self-aggrandizing attitude of Mitt Romney or the volatility of Newt Gingrich. Santorum is a man of his convictions, although his consuming religious beliefs may alienate many moderates. Morgan even described Karen Santorum as her husband's "secret weapon" - a striking comparison to Michelle Obama in 2007.

Ultimately, it's unlikely that Santorum will win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidential election. He is restricted by his strict, misogynistic religious social agenda but while many may not agree with his policies, he remains a dark horse in the Republican race.

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What Brussels can learn from the Italian referendum

Matteo Renzi's proposed reforms would have made it easier for eurosceptic forces within Italy to gain power in upcoming elections in 2018.

The Austrian presidential elections can justifiably be claimed as a victory for supporters of the European Union. But the Italian referendum is not the triumph for euroscepticism some have claimed.

In Austria, the victorious candidate Alexander van der Bellen ruthlessly put the EU centre stage in his campaign. “From the beginning I fought and argued for a pro-European Austria,” he said after a campaign that saw posters warning against “Öxit”.

Austrians have traditionally been eurosceptic, only joining the bloc in 1995, but Brexit changed all that.  Austrian voters saw the instability in the UK and support for EU membership soared. An overwhelming majority now back continued membership.

Van der Bellen’s opponent Norbert Hofer was at an immediate disadvantage. His far right Freedom Party has long pushed for an Öxit referendum.

The Freedom Party has claimed to have undergone a Damascene conversion but voters were not fooled.  They even blamed Nigel Farage for harming their chances with an interview he gave to Fox News claiming that the party would push to leave the EU.

The European Commission, as one would expect, hailed the result. “Europe was central in the campaign that led to the election of a new president and the final result speaks for itself,” chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said today in Brussels.

“We think the referendum in Italy was about a change to the Italian constitution and not about Europe,” Schinas added.

Brussels has a history of sticking its head in the sand when it gets political results it doesn’t like.

When asked what lessons the Commission could learn from Brexit, Schinas had said the lessons to be learnt were for the government that called the referendum.

But in this case, the commission is right. The EU was a peripheral issue compared to domestic politics in the Italian referendum.

Alberto Alemanno is Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law and an Italian. He said the reforms would have been vital to modernise Italy but rejected any idea it would lead to an Italian Brexit.

“While anti-establishment and eurosceptic actors are likely to emerge emboldened from the vote, interpreting the outcome of the Italian referendum as the next stage of Europe’s populist, anti-establishment movement – as many mainstream journalists have done – is not only factually wrong, but also far-fetched.”

Renzi was very popular in Brussels after coming to power in a palace coup in February 2014. He was a pro-EU reformer, who seemed keen to engage in European politics.

After the Brexit vote, he was photographed with Merkel and Hollande on the Italian island of Ventotene, where a landmark manifesto by the EU’s founding fathers was written.

This staged communion with the past was swiftly forgotten as Renzi indulged in increasingly virulent Brussels-bashing over EU budget flexibility in a bid to shore up his plummeting popularity. 

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker even publicly reprimanded Renzi for demonising the EU.

Renzi’s vow to resign personalised the referendum. He gave voters a chance to give him a bloody nose when his popularity was at an all-time low.

Some of the reforms he wanted were marked “to be confirmed”.  The referendum question was astonishingly verbose and complex. He was asking for a blank cheque from the voters.

Ironically Renzi’s reforms to the constitution and senate would have made it easier for the eurosceptic Five Star Movement to gain power in upcoming elections in 2018.

For reasons best known to themselves, they campaigned against the changes to their own disadvantage.

Thanks to the reforms, a Five Star government would have found it far easier to push through a “Quitaly” referendum, which now seems very distant.  

As things stand, Five Star has said it would push for an advisory vote on membership of the euro but not necessarily the EU.

The Italian constitution bans the overruling of international treaties by popular vote, so Five Star would need to amend the constitution. That would require a two thirds majority in both houses of parliament and then another referendum on euro membership. Even that could be blocked by one of the country’s supreme courts.

The Italian referendum was closely watched in Brussels. It was hailed as another triumph for euroscepticism by the likes of Farage and Marine Le Pen. But Italians are far more likely to be concerned about the possibility of financial turbulence, which has so far been mildly volatile, than any prospect of leaving the EU in the near future.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv.com.