Santorum's brother cheers on presidential run from Hilton Head

kpeterson@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 7, 2012 

Hilton Head Islander Dan Santorum, brother of Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, holds a poster picturing his brother, top right, and other Republican freshmen representatives in Congress who together became known as the Gang of Seven when they banded together to condemn the House Banking Scandal of 1992. Another member of the "gang" is current House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, at left.

JAY KARR/ THE ISLAND PACKET

  • The Republicans of Sun City Hilton Head are sponsoring an event with Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum from 10-11:30 a.m. Thursday in Magnolia Hall. It is limited to Sun City residents only.

Hilton Head Island resident Dan Santorum is used to reporters asking about his brother, but nothing quite like this.

Dan was quoted on the front page of The New York Times last week.

CNN visited his house in Sea Pines to flip through old family photos.

And everyone wants to know: What was Rick like growing up?

That "Rick," of course, is Rick Santorum, the Republican presidential hopeful who rocketed into the limelight Tuesday after his virtual tie with GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses.

The strong showing has boosted the former U.S. senator's profile nationwide.

Twenty-four percent of likely South Carolina primary voters now back Santorum' candidacy, according to a Rasmussen poll released Friday. Two months ago, it was just 1 percent.

Now, as Santorum campaigns in New Hampshire, his every move is followed by a flood of media. His brother, back on Hilton Head, is feeling the impact, too.

"It's kind of surreal," Dan said. "I mean, there's not too many people that can say their brother is running for president of the United States."

Dan, who moved to South Carolina in 1984, is chief executive officer of the Professional Tennis Registry, a trade group for tennis coaches and teachers.

He and Rick bear a striking resemblance, and their voices are similar in tone. When Dan talks about his brother's plan to cut $5 trillion from the federal budget, or when he touts endorsements from state Reps. Andy Patrick and Bill Herbkersman, it's easy to imagine Rick on the other end of the phone.

Growing up, the two brothers shared a room in their family's brick house in Butler, Penn., a steel town north of Pittsburgh. Like most siblings born about a year apart, they were always trying to out-do each other.

The family didn't discuss politics much. But history class was one of Rick's favorites, and in about ninth grade, he announced that he would be governor someday.

What happened instead were two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two in the U.S. Senate.

Now, as he makes a bid for the highest office in the land, perhaps nobody is cheering louder than family on Hilton Head.

"We're very proud of Rick and what he's accomplished, and what he will accomplish in the future -- in our opinion -- as the next president of the United States," Dan said.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Related content:

Santorum brings his "grassroots campaign" to the Lowcountry, Sept. 3, 2011

This video provided to the Island Packet courtesy of WTOC-TV.

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