How Rick Santorum Saved Wrestling

GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (artist's rendering).Andrew A. Nelles/ZumaPress; <a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?lang=en&search_source=search_form&version=llv1&anyorall=all&safesearch=1&searchterm=Lucha+libre&search_group=&orient=&search_cat=&searchtermx=&photographer_name=&people_gender=&people_age=&people_ethnicity=&people_number=&commercial_ok=&color=&show_color_wheel=1#id=6293173&src=766421fbe9db1ef6f1f6846e5262dd2a-1-2">George Koroneos</a>/Shutterstock


Rick Santorum’s effort in Iowa received a late boost from Jim Gibbons, the much-revered former wrestling coach at Iowa State University, who endorsed the GOP presidential candidate at a Pizza Ranch in Boone on Monday. In a caucus, where voters can be pressured by their peers right up to the minute they cast their votes, these kinds of endorsements tend to carry a lot of weight. But there’s another sub-plot to it all: Rick Santorum has sort of a weird fixation with wrestling.

As Mike Newall reported in his excellent 2005 Philadelphia City Paper profile, prior to getting involved in politics, Santorum worked at a law firm, where he once argued in court—successfully—that pro wrestling should be exempt from steroid regulations because it’s staged (and therefore not a sport). Jake Tapper flags a 2010 quote from the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Santorum spins his wrestling work in small-government terms: “Pennsylvania was the most pernicious of states when it came to regulation. They made you pay all this money to the boxing [athletic] commission. They used to just rape these guys. You’d have to pay a certain percentage of the gate receipts to have these officials just stand around and watch the match. It was ridiculous.” (Emphasis mine.)

And—because three makes a trend—here’s a Rick Santorum campaign ad from 2006, which has been making the rounds today. It stars Rick Santorum (obviously), using the spectacle of mostly-naked men wrestling as a metaphor for what’s wrong with Washington. (If nothing else, he seems to have anticipated the Chris Lee/Anthony Weiner scandals):

What would Rick Santorum’s wrestling name be? We’re going with “The Vest.”

  • Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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