Santorum, who won second place in the Iowa Caucus, responded to a comment by a listener that “we don’t need a Jesus guy this election. We need an economics guy this election.” Santorum said that “the idea that we don’t need someone with a moral compass, is that what we’ve come to? Is that what the Republican party is? No, it isn’t.” He later added the Jesus comment.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on Republican Santorum to refrain from overt expressions of religious preferences and beliefs on the campaign trail, stating that "religious appeals to voters are simply unacceptable and un-American."
"Senator Santorum's remark comparing himself to a 'Jesus candidate' was inappropriate and exclusionary. It essentially says that those of other faiths or of no faith — whether Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, non-believers or others — do not belong," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director in a prepared statement. "Religious appeals to voters are simply unacceptable and un-American.
"Voters should be encouraged to make their decisions based upon their assessment of the qualifications, integrity and political positions of candidates, not the intensity of their religious beliefs," Foxman added.
National Jewish Democratic Council President David Harris also criticized Santorum for his statement.
“I think the average Jew hears it as religiously exclusionist,” Harris said in a statement. "It helps remind American Jews of the yawning gap between them and today’s Republican Party."
At a later event, Santorum said his words were misinterpreted. “I said we always need a Jesus candidate. I don’t mean necessarily that we always need a Christian, but we need someone who believes in something more than themselves,” he said.