Rick Santorum recently released  an attack ad on Newt Gingrich criticizing him as a big government conservative touting the line, “Rick Santorum for President. He doesn’t just talk a good conservative game, he lives it.”

Why is Santorum drawing attention to his fellow candidates’ records of big government, when Santorum is so deeply mired in a long history of advocating for more government, more often?

Santorum is a classic example of a “big-government conservative.”  While Santorum did not advocate for federal health care mandates, he has pushed hard for the expansion of federal power throughout his career.

Looking at Santorum’s broader record in Congress reveals that he is plenty comfortable with having the federal government tell you what to do on a large number of issues, only when it comes to health care mandates does Santorum become wary.

Michael Tanner of the National Review explains this aspect of Santorum’s record in Congress well.

He never met an earmark that he didn’t like. In fact, it wasn’t just earmarks for his own state that he favored, which might be forgiven as pure electoral pragmatism, but earmarks for everyone, including the notorious “Bridge to Nowhere.” The quintessential Washington insider, he worked closely with Tom DeLay to set up the “K Street Project,” linking lobbyists with the GOP leadership. He voted against NAFTA and has long opposed free trade. He backed higher tariffs on everything from steel to honey. He still supports an industrial policy with the government tilting the playing field toward manufacturing industries and picking winners and losers.

British columnist James Delingpole echoed the sentiments of Tanner saying “The truth is Rick Santorum is so left on the issues that matter he makes even Mitt Romney look like a red meat conservative. Be very afraid, Republican America. This is how bad things are.”  I’m not sure I’d go that far, but certainly Santorum is no small government guy.

Although Santorum has promised spending cuts of $5 trillion over 5 years, his long record of supporting big government policies suggests that those cuts will be filled with plenty of avenues for new spending.

Santorum certaily is a social conservative, but he’s not a small government conservative.