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Matt Rourke, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum leaves the Cook Out restaurant, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012, in Gaffney, S.C.

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum is brash and blunt — and proudly so. But it's a trait that will make it easy for Democrats to use his own words against him if he becomes the Republican presidential nominee.

Far from apologetic, Santorum takes an "I-am-who-I-am" attitude.

Lately, though, as he tries to emerge as the conservative alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney, the former Pennsylvania senator has been asking Republican voters to look beyond his verbal missteps.

Santorum's comments on sex and faith as well as race have led to controversy during his 16 years in the House and Senate and when he was an author, radio talk-show host, think-tank fellow and Fox News commentator.

Santorum once compared homosexuality to bigamy, incest and adultery, provoking a firestorm of protest from gay rights supporters.