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Rick Santorum’s Senate Record Comes Under More Scrutiny

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

“He does have the evangelicals solidly on his side, but not the rest of the conservative vote,” the strategist added.

Their comments come as the Republican Party establishment is increasingly pushing to close ranks behind Romney, who leads in the delegate race and bagged primary victories earlier this week in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Santorum hopes to mount a comeback by winning his home state’s April 24 primary.

“His days as a Republican nominee contender are clearly numbered, with Romney as the frontrunner that Republicans are coalescing around,” said Ron Bonjean, a former GOP leadership staffer now at Singer Bonjean Strategies.

His comments echo those of 2008 GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), who said earlier this week that it is “irrelevant” whether Santorum stays in.

But Santorum said earlier this week after the primary results had come in that he intends to stay in the race. He met with conservative leaders outside Washington, D.C., on Thursday to craft a plan to help defeat Romney.

However, not all Republicans agree that the Massiah-Jackson issue shows Santorum as a wavering conservative.

“My recollection is that Sen. Santorum took the position that Judge Massiah-Jackson was entitled to a hearing and a vote,” a former GOP Judiciary staffer said. “He returned the blue slip. But was he a supporter or an advocate for her? Not that I recall. He could have introduced her at the hearing, but that was just good protocol.”

“As you can expect, since she was from Philadelphia, Sen. Specter was the one actively pushing for her, not Sen. Santorum,” the staffer said. “With opposition from Pennsylvania law enforcement groups and prosecutors, it became clear she was going to be defeated. Sen. Santorum and Sen. Specter both had urged her to withdraw and Sen. Santorum was, I believe, going to vote against her.”

Clinton nominated Massiah-Jackson in July 1997 for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She received two hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee, something that does not typically happen without the backing of both home-state Senators.

The first hearing was held in October 1997, and the panel ultimately approved her by voice vote. She subsequently received a second hearing in March 1998 after law enforcement and prosecutors came out against her nomination and she became the target of conservative groups. The second hearing came at the urging of several Senators including Santorum, according to a Senate Republican Policy Committee policy paper from the 105th Congress.

At the second hearing, she appeared before the panel and answered questions for several hours where she said that her record had been “wildly distorted” and that the charges were untrue, the Policy Committee paper said. She ultimately requested that her nomination be withdrawn, which the White House did the day before the Senate vote.

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