Santorum gets shouts of disapproval at college rally

Rick Santorum GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum spars with a crowd of college students over same-sex marriage in Concord, N.H. (Jim Cole / Associated Press)
By James OliphantThose skeptical of whether Rick Santorum has what it takes to win a general-election contest this fall have focused on, among other things, his drumbeating on social issues in a year when Republican strategists believe hitting President Obama on the economy is the way to win the White House.

Santorum’s potential vulnerability on that score was on display Thursday night in New Hampshire, where he was challenged on his views on gay marriage.

Santorum is an ardent, outspoken opponent of gay marriage, favoring an amendment to the Constitution that would define marriage as solely between a man and a woman. He received a rough welcome from a group of college Republicans in Concord — and it likely didn’t help matters when he compared a same-sex union to polygamy.

“Are we saying everyone should have the right to marry? So anyone can marry anyone else?” Santorum asked, according to a video by NBC News. “So anybody can marry several people?”

The former Pennsylvania senator was clearly on the defensive throughout the exchange, as he attempted to prevent the back-and-forth from becoming a free-for-all.

“We’re going to have a civil discussion or were going to move on to another question,” he said at one point. Confronted by one critic, he fired back, “What about three men?”

Clearly antagonized, Santorum continued, “If it makes three people happy to get married, based on what you just said, what makes that wrong and what you said right?”

Santorum’s conservative views played well among Iowa’s Republican electorate, but New Hampshire’s GOP base is more moderate. (Both states have legalized same-sex marriage.) But even in Iowa, he was asked about the issue and he’ll likely face further questions as long as he remains in the race. The antipathy between Santorum and the gay community is well known, having been manifested, for one thing, in his “Google problem” (which we’re not going to get into).

Santorum told the group that although he disagreed with New Hampshire’s legalization of same-sex marriage, the state did it the right way by having the Legislature pass a law rather than following a ruling dictated by a court. On the campaign trail, he has argued that same-sex-marriage advocates should make their case in the “public square” and leave the matter to voters.

“I believe we are made the way God made man and woman, and man and woman come together to have a union to produce children, which keeps civilization going and provide the best environment for children to be raised,” Santorum said.

After Santorum stated his views on marriage, he was cheered by some and, as he left the event, roundly booed by others.

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