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Monday, Jul 28, 2014

Santorum, Gingrich Children Play Vital Role in Dad's Campaign

  • (Photo: The Christian Post/Paul Stanley)
    Former Sen. Rick Santorum campaigns with his wife and three of his children prior to the Fox News debate in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. January 16, 2012.
January 21, 2012|3:54 pm

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Voters are accustomed to seeing the spouses of political candidates stump for their better halves on the trail. But in this week's South Carolina primary, the children of two of the remaining GOP hopefuls are fulfilling a critical role in their fathers' campaigns and in unique ways.

The children of the other candidates may be more active, but none are larger than the Santorum clan of seven children ranging in age from 20 to three-and-a-half. They include Elizabeth, John, Daniel, Sarah Maria, Peter, Patrick and Bella.

The former Pennsylvania senator and his wife, Karen, are tireless campaigners and public servants who have chosen to involve their children in all aspects of their political life. When Santorum moved from the House of Representatives to the Senate in 1995, the couple decided it was best to move the family to Washington so the senator could come home, have dinner with the kids and put the younger ones to bed, before returning to the Hill for late night votes.

Seeing them on the campaign trail offers a unique glimpse into their family dynamics.

On Wednesday, Santorum and three of his kids – John, 19, Daniel, 16, and Sarah Maria, 14 – appeared at a campaign stop with the Values Voter bus tour in Mt. Pleasant, just outside of Charleston. They came on the tour bus for a few moments to relax while their dad discussed the order of speakers and how the event would proceed – a routine they experience over a half dozen times per day.

John, who is lanky and tall, sat back and gazed out the bus windows into the crowd gathered on the lawn, some of whom included a group of homosexual protesters that looked to be around his same age. He seemed unfazed at the chaos outside. Instead of enrolling in college immediately after high school, he decided to take a year off to campaign with his dad and process his future plans.

"I think I want to go into the military or do some public service before I start school," he said.

"The hardest part of the campaign is we are really busy most days and the drives between campaign stops can be long and boring," John added. "But the food – that's my favorite part. It's really good most of the time." Of course, pizza and chicken wings always seem to satisfy a growing teenager.

Yet it is obvious Karen Santorum is the glue that holds her family together. At a late evening press availability on the eve of the South Carolina primary in downtown Charleston, she was concerned that her husband, Sarah Maria and Patrick, had not eaten.

"We need to get some food in your dad," she told Patrick. "I bet you guys are hungry too, honey."

Moments later an aide came over and said her husband was busy hamming it up with a group of reporters and bloggers and had sat down with political analyst and former Clinton adviser Dick Morris for pizza and chicken strips. "Okay, let's go in and join your dad. We may be here a while," a relieved mom told her kids. The kids smiled when they saw the table full of food.

The Santorum family made the decision to campaign as a family, a decision that took months to reach. Some of the children thought it would be a great experience; others were hesitant that they would see much less of their dad. "In the end we all decided it was the right thing for our country, our dad and our family," said Sarah Maria. "We know he'll be just as good a president as he is a dad."

The feeling seems to be mutual. When candidate Santorum was asked a list of five questions ranging from his favorite movie ("Field of Dreams"), to his favorite founding father (James Madison), his answer to the last question spoke volumes of his relationship with his children. What is the job you most want after you serve as president of the United States? "Just Dad," he quickly replied.

Earlier this week, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's two grown daughters from his first marriage were busy meeting with voters, party activists and elected officials in Myrtle Beach, Columbia and Spartanburg prior to making their way to Thursday's CNN debate in Charleston. What they did not expect was the furor they would face in the middle of the week regarding an ABC interview with their dad's second and ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, who claims that the former speaker sought her approval for an "open" marriage.

The Gingrich girls also grew up with a dad who spent lots of time away from home during his early years in Congress. Kathy Gingrich Lubbers, 48, and Jackie Gingrich Cushman, 45, have been involved in their dad's political and business life for the last several years and are now playing a substantive role in their dad's campaign, not only stumping for him but advising him on important campaign matters.

When the news broke that Marianne Gingrich's ABC interview would air following Thursday's CNN debate in Charleston, the girls immediately fired off a letter to the president of ABC, requesting the network not air the interview after their father told them the accusations were untrue.

In an email reply to The Christian Post, Gingrich's oldest daughter talked about the emotions of the week and the campaign process itself. "It has been a roller coaster and one has to learn to take your hands off of the bar, hold your hands up high, have faith in human kind and the American process and enjoy the ride," said Gingrich Lubbers.

The ability to love and defend a parent is instilled in Gingrich's daughters. And they too believe he would make a great president. "We know our dad is the best man for the job," Jackie Gingrich Cushman said at an event in Myrtle Beach on Monday. "He's the only one in this race that has balanced four budgets and can stand up to President Obama."

As Santorum was getting ready to walk off the bus to a waiting crowd in Mt. Pleasant, Sarah Maria, who is almost as tall as her father, stood in front of her dad, his hands on her shoulders. "You ready sweetie?" Santorum said to his daughter. "Yeah, I'm ready dad. Love you."

Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/santorum-gingrich-children-play-vital-role-in-dads-campaign-67655/