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Karen Santorum one of her husband’s top advisers, despite her low profile

TUSCALOOSA AL - MARCH 12:  Republican presidential candidate former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R) eats ribs DreamlBar-B-Que with his

TUSCALOOSA, AL - MARCH 12: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R) eats ribs at Dreamland Bar-B-Que with his wife Karen Santorum during a campaign stop March 12, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As the race for delegates continues, Alabama and Mississippi will hold their primaries tomorrow. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\141190680.jpg

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Updated: April 21, 2012 8:14AM



Karen Santorum is not as well known as her husband, the fast-charging presidential candidate who is giving Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney fits.

She shies away from the media and is not often seen with Rick Santorum, including during his criss-crossing of Illinois in the run-up to Tuesday’s primary.

But like many political wives, Karen Santorum is described by friends as one of her husband’s most trusted and pragmatic advisers and one who keeps him grounded while keeping their large family a focus.

“She’s very politically savvy,” said former state Rep. Al Salvi (R-Mundelein), a former high school classmate of Rick Santorum’s and an honorary co-chairman of his Illinois campaign.

“I know that she’s the first one to tell Rick he has made a mistake. She’s very politically astute. She shares Rick’s values and positions on issues,” Salvi said. “She and Rick are very deeply in love. It’s a wonderful relationship. It’s an inspiring relationship.”

After her husband called President Obama a “snob” for encouraging people to go to college, she called to admonish him, she admitted in a CNN interview Monday night.

A lawyer and nurse, Karen Santorum met her husband 24 years ago after being offered a job at his Pittsburgh law firm. They wed in 1990 and went on to have eight children together.

Before meeting her husband, she was in a relationship with a much older doctor who performed abortions – a procedure that she and her husband, the former Pennsylvania senator, now ardently oppose.

“I went through a phase, it was a phase, when I was young and — and made some stupid decisions. And I did some stupid things. And I did go through a phase of life where I wasn’t living the way I should have been,” she said in an interview earlier this month on CBS This Morning.

“And for anyone out there who’s listening, who’s in the same phase, you know, it’s — there is healing. There is change,” she said.

Her views against abortion have solidified since their daughter, Bella, was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder.

“I just felt very strongly about faith and family and I … feel very strongly about life, the life issue,” she told CBS. “Now that we have a special-needs little girl, I … feel especially stronger about, you know, the dignity and value of every person from the moment of conception until death.”

She and her husband also have endured tragedy in their lives, including the death 16 years ago of their infant son, Gabriel, who was born prematurely and died soon thereafter.

In her interview with CBS, she expressed resentment about how her grieving was portrayed in press accounts.

“We brought Gabriel home from the hospital to have a funeral mass and to bury him, and so they twist it and they make it sound like it was some crazy thing. We brought him home from the hospital to introduce him to our kids and place him,” she said. “What is so sad for to me … is that no one can tell me how to grieve. And I’m not going to tell anyone else how to grieve.”

Al Salvi’s wife, Kathy Salvi, said she has cultivated a friendship with Karen Santorum since 1996, when Salvi’s husband surprised Illinois’ Republican establishment and took the party’s U.S. Senate nomination over then-Lt. Gov. Bob Kustra.

“When my husband received the nomination, she called and said ‘Kathy I have to have you out here.’ She said, ‘This can work, family life and public service can be melded, and you can have a sane and normal life in spite of your husband always being in the public eye,’” Salvi told the Chicago Sun-Times.

“When you talk to her, she doesn’t look over your shoulder to see who she has to talk to next. That’s why I treasurer her friendship,” Kathy Salvi said, describing Karen Santorum as a “best bud” and “sister.”

“She’s one of the first people I’d call if I had a mom question, a lawyer question,” she said. “She’s a nurse, a lawyer, a wife of a former U.S. senator. She wears many hats, and she wears them so well.”

Santorum said Monday night she resents critics calling her husband “anti-woman.”

“Not at all — he is not anti-woman,” she told interviewer Piers Morgan. “I am a registered nurse, a lawyer and an author of two books and when I was on my book tour he was home making meals, changing diapers, cleaning the kitchen. He’s been supportive of me and my career. They’re trying to make him look like something he’s not. He is completely supportive of women.”

Should women worry her husband might try to ban contraceptives?

“Women have nothing to fear, when it comes to contraceptives, he will do nothing on that issue,” she said.



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