Rick Santorum: Donald Trump ‘spoke for the American worker’

June 29, 2016 GMT

Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania says it would be wise not to underestimate presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and that Mr. Trump is tapping into the concerns of working class voters who feel like they’ve been left behind.

Mr. Santorum recalled that even back in July 2015, as he was sitting in a CNN green room, people were convinced that Mr. Trump would fizzle out.

“No way a Republican electorate would nominate a populist who focused on a wall with Mexico and trade deficits with China as the cornerstones of his campaign rollout,” Mr. Santorum wrote in a piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But when I was asked for my opinion, I told them don’t be so sure.”

Mr. Santorum wrote that “smart people” in Washington and New York still don’t get how much most Americans outside the “technology corridors” on the east and west coasts are hurting.

“On Main Street, wages are stagnant, and more and more hardworking families are being forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet,” he wrote. “Even worse, the labor participation rate is in the dumps because average working Americans have lost hope.”

Mr. Santorum said people might not have agreed with everything Mr. Trump said or how he said it, but that he “spoke for the American worker and was willing to take the heat from the elite know-it-alls and give it right back to them.”

He pointed out that Mr. Trump won all 67 counties in the Pennsylvania primary in May.

“Think about that for one moment. Trump was able to unite urban Philadelphia, metropolitan suburban Philadelphia voters, the conservative T, and the blue-collar southwest in a hotly contested primary,” he wrote.

Mr. Santorum, the author of the book “Blue Collar Conservatives,” tried to make the case during his own 2016 presidential campaign that the GOP needs to do a better job emphasizing working-class issues.

“His slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ strikes at the heart of this problem because places like Johnstown and Erie were once great, but the unfettered and unchecked globalization, particularly trade and immigration, advocated by both Republicans and Democrats crushed these and other communities,” Mr. Santorum wrote.

“When they raise their voices, these towns are admonished to simply catch up with the rest of the world; it was their own fault they weren’t prepared for the new economy,” he wrote.

Mr. Santorum pointed to British voters’ recently opting to leave the European Union as evidence that such a sentiment is still going.

“Hardworking families there and here are no longer going to take it on the chin and be told it is good for them,” he said.