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With His Campaign Lagging, Rick Santorum Turns Once Again To Dan Savage

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Last time it was Savage who threw the first punch, turning Santorum's last name into a slang term related to anal sex and making that definition the top result on the planet's largest search engine. This time, it's Santorum who's calling out Savage, using the columnist's controversial appearance on last week's Real Time With Bill Maher as a springboard into some retro attacks on Savage and the LGBT-rights movement he represents.

Here's what happened on HBO. During a panel discussion about the GOP candidates -- more specifically, a round of speculation about the sex life of the Bachmanns -- Savage, who's made his career on graphic sexual talk, said this (in jest):

"I sometimes think about fucking the shit out of Rick Santorum......he needs it. So, it's not, it's not just women we're talking about fucking. Like, let's bone that Santorum boy."

"I'm up for whipping up some santorum in Santorum," he added.

On a New York talk radio show Monday, Santorum attacked his old rival for the comments.

"That's Dan Savage. You know, it's, it's the lowest, you know, debasement of public discourse," he said, adding, "The bottom line is I stand and I wear it as a badge of honor that someone as vulgar and as, and as disgusting and as hate-filled as Dan Savage sees me as public enemy number one. To me, that tells me I must be doing something right."

Then, like any good presidential candidate who raised just $600,000 last quarter, he used the moment to ask for money.

"You stand up against them, they will intimidate you, they will, they will use vile things, and the media will applaud them, and you will be ostracized in society. That's their objective. It is, it is, it is nothing short of that," Santorum said. "And so I would just encourage those who don't want to see that trend to continue, if you can help us out, I would appreciate it...I would appreciate your help. You can go to ricksantorum.com if you want to help us."

Savage declined to apologize for the remark, though he did offer a public apology for another incendiary remark he made on the show about Republicans in general: "I wish they were all fucking dead."

"No, I'm not going to apologize for that," Savage said of the Santorum remark. "I apologized--sincerely, and before anyone objected--for something else I said on the show. But I didn't for that, and I won't."

Santorum formalized the money ask in a fundraising email sent to supporters Wednesday. The central theme: I'm tired of being victimized by famous gay people.

"I took the high road for nearly a decade by not dignifying these mindless attacks, then even defending his 1st Amendment right to spew this filth. And to this day, liberals like Rachel Maddow serve as Savage's lackeys on national television, pushing his smut," Santorum wrote. "Enough is enough."

It was of course "high road" statements about the LGBT community like this one from Santorum that led Savage to Google bomb him in the first place.

TPM asked Savage to reflect on Santorum's new/old line of attack.

"If he was honest, he'd admit that the Google thing has been good for him--it's allowed him to portray himself as a victim in the style of Sarah Palin," Savage said. "It's not getting him any traction, but that's because he's a bad candidate and a repulsive politician. But if you look at his press over the last 18 months, grousing about his Google problem is his chief talking point."

Santorum jumped into the race trumpeting his social conservative credentials. So far, voters aren't buying what Santorum is selling. Polls out of Iowa show him registering support in the low single digits among potential caucus-goers

He's clearly using the new fight with Savage as a attempt to bolster his cred.

"I can only imagine if this happened to a liberal. Maher and his friends in the Mainstream Media would hit the roof - and rightly so!" Santorum wrote in a campaign blog post. "But when it happens to a conservative, they applaud and laugh."

Savage bristled at that notion.

"Conservatives beat up on liberals all the time," he said. "And conservatives make their attacks personal because they have an easier time running on 'who you'd wanna have a beer with,' as their policies are unpopular. So they demonize their opponents. They're bullies. And, like all bullies, they react with shock and horror when someone they're beating the shit out of has the nerve to take swing at 'em."

As for the new dustup with his old foil, Savage had both barrels ready and loaded with rhetoric.

"Rick Santorum is America's leading anti-gay bully: he wants to reinstate DADT, ban gay people from adopting children, split up bi-national gay couples--he wants to prevent a gay person from being at his partner's bedside during a medical emergency, for Christ's sake," Savage said. "Rick Santorum believes you can only "support" traditional families by beating up on other kinds of families."