“This is like nothing I’ve ever experienced,” Elizabeth Santorum says of her role as a sort of jack-of-all-trades for her father Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign. Elizabeth, aged 20, has attended the University of Dallas since 2009. She chose to suspend her undergraduate studies at UD during the election season. She recently spoke on the phone to a University News reporter as she caught a flight from Tampa Bay to Washington, D.C. In Florida, Elizabeth acted as a surrogate for the former Pennsylvania senator at a rally in Sarasota when Mr. Santorum was home caring for his ill daughter.
Elizabeth is becoming an important part of her father’s campaign as he enters a crucial stage in the Republican nomination process, with the upcoming primaries of Florida and Nevada.
Senator Santorum’s youngest child, a three-year-old named Bella, was hospitalized Saturday with pneumonia in both lungs. Santorum extended a planned break to remain with Bella, and Elizabeth spoke in Florida in his place, stepping up to help the campaign as she has done many times over the past several months.
The latest news is that Bella is doing better, and Elizabeth expressed her appreciation for the prayers and support her family received.
Reflecting on her decision to join the campaign, she said, “I truly believed my dad was the right man for the right moment,” adding that it was “a very difficult time for my family, and I wanted to be there in whatever way I could.”
On the campaign trail, she does whatever needs doing. “Every day is different,” she explains. “There are always new questions, new people.”
In addition to appearing as a surrogate, she also stands in for interviews, blogs, answers phones, and simply spends time with her father, keeping him company during their travels.
There are both pleasures and pains to being a part of a presidential candidate’s election team. “Politics is hard no matter what,” she remarks. “It demands a lot, and my dad is the hardest-working candidate out there.”
She admits the inevitable attacks are “not always pleasant to hear,” but emphasizes the bright side. “I’ve grown a lot this year,” she says, explaining that she gained valuable experience in the world of politics. UD prepared her well for the campaign, Elizabeth believes.
“You learn how to think on your feet,” she says about UD. She highlights the core as providing her with “a general basis of knowledge,” but is quick to point out that “one of the greatest gifts is [the UD] community.”
Elizabeth still keeps in touch with her friends in Irving and describes them as “so supportive.” She is definite in her plans to complete her degree when she is able to return to school.
“The Huffington Post,” a popular liberal news website, recently quoted Elizabeth as stating that she had gay friends who support Senator Santorum politically despite his position in favor of traditional marriage. She stands by that statement, saying that voters are “never going to agree with a candidate 100 percent. It’s a matter of policy, and difference of opinion.”
Elizabeth believes that her father has “the right message for America at this moment.” From her experiences in the thick of the political action, she has observed that “a lot of Americans don’t want to sit on the sidelines” anymore.
In a world that is rapidly changing, she declares that anything is possible.
“We have an incredible chance, a shot to change history.”
Rick Santorum and his team have traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida to campaign for the primaries in those states.
In the next few weeks, he will be traveling to Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada as the primaries in these states approach.