Santorum 2012? Really?

SANTORUM 2012? REALLY?…. There was a fair amount of talk in, say, 2005, that Sen. Rick Santorum (R) was eyeing the 2008 presidential race. It was hard to take the scuttlebutt seriously, but Santorum was quietly making some behind-the-scenes moves in that direction.

The talk came to an abrupt halt when Santorum, whose most notable Senate achievement was an interview in which he compared gay couples to “man-on-dog” relations, lost his re-election bid by a humiliating 18 points. The idea of Santorum having national ambitions was obviously silly.

And yet, here we are.

Add former Sen. Rick Santorum to the list of potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

POLITICO has learned Santorum will visit first-in-the-nation Iowa this fall for a series of appearances before the sort of conservative activists who dominate the state GOP’s key presidential caucuses.

The Pennsylvanian, who lost his 2006 reelection bid, will visit Iowa on October 1, appearing on a Des Moines radio talk show and speaking to a luncheon and workshop of Iowa’s Right to Life group before heading east to Dubuque, where he’ll headline a fundraiser for the conservative America’s Future Fund PAC and then speak about the future of the GOP to a public audience in the Mississippi River city.

Now, a politician — current or former — showing up for some face-time in Iowa isn’t necessarily evidence of presidential ambitions. That said, Santorum acknowledged his interest in taking on a leadership role in Republican politics.

“I’m very concerned about the state of affairs in this country and how Republicans are dealing with [issues], so this is an opportunity for me to go out and talk about things I think we need to be doing to turn this country in the right direction,” Santorum said of his Iowa plans.

He’s also apparently spent some time considering how he’d fare in the Hawkeye State’s 2012 contest. “One of the things we’ve seen from the Iowa caucuses is candidates that appeal to the base do very well,” Santorum said when asked how his conservative profile would fit the state. “I think historically that’s always been sort of a key in Iowa. Whether I do or not, I don’t know — I mean, we’ll see.”

I don’t doubt he would appeal to a certain segment of the Republican base. After all, Santorum has said publicly he wants White House efforts to improve the country to fail, and Glenn Beck has compared the far-right former senator to Winston Churchill.

Whether Santorum can appeal to a mainstream national audience seems a lot less plausible.