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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On the "one-state" solution to Israel and Palestine, what did Donald Trump mean?

The US President seemed to dismantle two decades of foreign policy in his press conference with Benjamin Netanyahu. 

If the 45th President of the United States wasn’t causing enough chaos at home, he has waded into the world’s most intricate conflict – Israel/Palestine. 

Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump made an apparently off-the-cuff comment that has reverberated around the world. 

Asked what he thought about the future of the troubled region, he said: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like.”

To the uninformed observer, this comment might seem fairly tame by Trump standards. But it has the potential to dismantle the entire US policy on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Trump said he could "live with" either a two-state or one-state solution. 

The "two-state solution" has become the foundation of the Israel-Palestine peace process, and is a concept that has existed for decades. At its simplest, it's the idea that an independent state of Palestine can co-exist next to an independent Israel. The goal is supported by the United Nations, by the European Union, by the Arab League, and by, until now, the United States. 

Although the two-state solution is controversial in Israel, many feel the alternative is worse. The idea of a single state would fuel the imagination of those on the religious right, who wish to expand into Palestinian territory, while presenting liberal Zionists with a tricky demographic maths problem - Arabs are already set to outnumber Jews in Israel and the occupied territories by 2020. Palestinians are divided on the benefits of a two-state solution. 

I asked Yossi Mekelberg, Professor of International Relations at Regent's University and an associate fellow at Chatham House, to explain exactly what went down at the Trump-Netanyahu press conference:

Did Donald Trump actually mean to say what he said?

“Generally with President Trump we are into an era where you are not so sure whether it is something that happens off the hoof, that sounds reasonable to him while he’s speaking, or whether maybe he’s cleverer than all of us put together and he's just pretending to be flippant. It is so dramatically opposite from the very professorial Barack Obama, where the words were weighted and the language was rich, and he would always use the right word.” 

So has Trump just ditched a two-state solution?

“All of a sudden the American policy towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, a two-state solution, isn’t the only game in town.”

Netanyahu famously didn’t get on with Obama. Is Trump good news for him?

“He was quite smug during the press conference. But while Netanyahu wanted a Republican President, he didn’t want this Republican. Trump isn’t instinctively an Israel supporter – he does what is good for Trump. And he’s volatile. Netanyahu has enough volatility in his own cabinet.”

What about Trump’s request that Netanyahu “pull back on settlements a little bit”?

“Netanyahu doesn’t mind. He’s got mounting pressure in his government to keep building. He will welcome this because it shows even Trump won’t give them a blank cheque to build.”

Back to the one-state solution. Who’s celebrating?

“Interestingly, there was a survey just published, the Palestinian-Israel Pulse, which found a majority of Israelis and a large minority of Palestinians support a two-state solution. By contrast, if you look at a one-state solution, only 36 per cent of Palestinians and 19 per cent of Israel Jews support it.”

 

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.