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Players:  Dan Savage, author of the "Savage Love" syndicated sex column and creator of the "It Gets Better" campaign; Rick Santorum, 2012 Republican hopeful and former senator from Pennsylvania

The Opening Serve: Savage and Santorum's spat originates in 2003. Santorum had compared gay sex to bestiality and incest and in response, Savage set out to Google-bomb and create a new meaning for "Santorum" (just try it to see results). But on the heels of Santorum signing the "Marriage Pledge," Savage appeared (NSFW-unless you have earphones and can watch YouTube at work) on Bill Maher's Real Time on July 15. Savage, along with the panel, discussed the stable of potential Republican nominees. "I sometimes think about f****** the s*** out of Rick Santorum," he said. "He needs it...Let's bone that Santorum good. I'd be up for whipping up Santorum in that Santorum." That night he issued an apology, but it was for a comment he made under his breath, not an apology to Santorum.

On July 18, Santorum went to WOR radio's Steve Malzberg show and aired his grievances: "It’s just that. It’s filth. It’s, you know, this man has, has gone out there and tried to destroy my integrity," he said. "I mean, you’ve heard the whole issue of the Google issue. That’s Dan Savage...It’s, it’s offensive beyond, you know, anything that any public figure or anybody in America should tolerate, and the mainstream media laughs about it."

The Return Volley:  Santorum wasn't done there. On July 20, Politico published a fundraising letter that Santorum sent out to his e-mail list. "On last week's episode, Maher hosted hate activist Dan Savage," he wrote. "Instead of focusing on the issues and having an intellectual conversation, they broke into vile attacks against me and other conservatives."  Santorum then delved into the effect on his personal life: "Savage and his perverted sense of humor is the reason why my children cannot Google their father's name." Santorum then pleads for (monetary) help. "That is why I need your support today, and your contribution of $25, $50, $100 or $250 to my campaign," he wrote. "You can help right now by making a small or large contribution to my campaign. Don't let Dan Savage and the extreme left win."

This morning, through Funny or Die, Dan Savage issued a humorous threat to "Google-bomb" Rick's first name (possibly NSFW):


What They Say They're Fighting About: Gay rights. This is how Savage and Santorum got into this spat in the first place. Santorum's stated that his ideal view of America doesn't include gay rights like marriage equality and has, in the past, equated gay sex with bestiality and incest. Conversely, Savage, who is openly gay, is an advocate for gay rights and created the "It Gets Better" campaign--a project that aims to combat the effects of bullying on gay teens.

What They're Really Fighting About: They're fighting about fighting at this point. It's worth pointing out, too, that Savage benefits from his stance and criticisms of Santorum, hence his recent appearances on Maher and FOD. Santorum, having only raised $582,348 in second-quarter reports is trying to monetize Savage's attacks.

Who's Winning: Savage. Google and its algorithm have spoken. Santorum even admits that his "children cannot Google their father's name"--which means that Savage has had enough support to keep his viral prank running for eight years, from 2003 to the present. While a lot of what Savage says strays into questionable and crass territory, people find its sense of humor and rally behind that. Santorum, on the other hand, is having a hard enough time convincing people in his own party to like him. He is barely getting by--both in votes and dollars--which, if he plans to make a serious run in 2012, is a little more troublesome than his current "Google Problem."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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