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.”

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Tim Murphy

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