Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, if he wanted to draw support from a large segment of the population, would stay away from the culture war. Everyone knows how right wing he is on social issues — the phrase “Man on Dog” appeared as his middle name for quite a while — and to be taken seriously as a national candidate, Santorum would be wise to focus on issues most Americans actually care about in 2011.

But Santorum doesn’t see it that way. It leads the former senator to go after, among other things, contraception.

Igor Volsky has this item today, noting Santorum arguing, on camera and on the record, that birth control devalues the act of procreation.

YouTube video

For those who can’t watch clips from your work computer, Santorum says, in all seriousness, “One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Santorum doesn’t just envision a role speaking out against contraception; if elected, he wants to defund access to contraception for those who rely on public assistance. Those wealthy enough to pay for their family planning would be able to do so, but everyone else would be screwed (so to speak).

But, wait, you’re thinking. Wouldn’t Rick Santorum’s approach lead to a massive increase in the number of unintended pregnancies, and a related increase in the number of abortions? The answer, of course, is yes, but don’t bother Santorum with details. He’s against abortion and legal, personal efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and doesn’t see the disconnect.

And to think this guy isn’t taken seriously as a major presidential contender.

Postscript: Just as an aside, at the debate last night, Santorum boasted that he, unlike every other GOP presidential contender, has won in a swing state. “[I’m] the only senator to win a state who was a conservative that George Bush lost,” he said. “Bush lost it by 5, I won it by 6.”

What he neglected to mention is that, when he sought re-election in 2006, he lost by a stunning 18 points — the worst defeat for an incumbent senator in a generation. Perhaps he forgot.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.