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The Globe and Mail

Rick Santorum's 'sweater vest' strategy: how one GOP candidate is getting noticed

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally at the First National Bank Exhibition Hall in Loveland, Colorado February 4, 2012.


Now that Rick Santorum is Mr. Momentum, is it time for the former Pennsylvania senator to get "presidential" and fold up his sweater vest for good?

Not likely.

Call it a running joke or a fashion faux pas, but when political commentators start talking about the electoral map in terms of "sweater vest states," you can count on Mr. Santorum holding on tight to his sweater vest.

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Incidentally, Mr. Santorum did not don the charcoal grey – or one of the many other coloured sweater vests he has worn in the past – during his victory speech Tuesday night after wins in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado.

"Good evening from the Tower of News where we're wondering if Rick Santorum will be the first guy in a sweater vest to ever score a hat trick," quipped one New York Times journalist on Twitter.

It will take a lot of sweater vest sales to join the Mitt Romney league of fundraising, but every little bit helps: The Santorum campaign is inviting people to donate $100 and in return receive a grey, 100 per cent cotton and Made-in-the-USA sweater vest.

"Perfect for demonstrating solidarity with true conservatives, this vest is a great way to show your support for Rick," says the campaign website. "Don't let sleeves slow you down – donate today!"

Mr. Santorum recently visited the Bemidji, Minnesota factory where the now-famous vests, embroidered with his name, are manufactured. Over 1,600 have been sold so far.

"It was a complete fashion faux pas," he explained during the tour of the factory, as reported by FOX News.

"I was out campaigning one day and forgot that that night I had a speech to give at a Mike Huckabee event which should have required a coat and tie, and I walked out there dressed like this.

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"I went out there and I guess gave a pretty darn good speech and people started saying hey, maybe it was the sweater vest! And all of a sudden the sweater vest sort of took off and took on a life of its own."

And predictably, Mr. Santorum's sweater vest has been mocked.

"Oh gosh, so sad. My dad wore them, and I mean they're charming for family photos, I guess, and dinner with the grandparents. I think there's an ironic way to wear a sweater vest but other than that I'm not sure," said actress Scarlett Johansson.

Ms. Johansson, no stranger to fashion or the Democratic Party, hosted a fashion launch this week of a line of pro-Obama clothing, bags and accessories by designers supporting President Obama's reelection. All proceeds are going to the campaign.

No sweater vests here. Although there is this $55 Rachel Roy-designed tank top.

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