Santorum: Big 2006 Senate loss was a 'self-correction,' a 'gift'

GOP White House hopeful Rick Santorum said Saturday that getting crushed in the 2006 race for Pennsylvania's Senate seat turned out to be a good thing.

Santorum, the incumbent, lost to current Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) by over 17 percent, but said at a conservative conference in the Keystone State Saturday that leaving Capitol Hill helped him gain perspective.

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"The people of Pennsylvania didn't always give me what I wanted, but they always gave me what I needed," Santorum said at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, according to NBC. “And it was a great, in many respects, for me a great gift to get away, to separate out, to get back and involved in the private sector and have a little distance from Washington to see what was going on.”

Santorum is expected to win the Louisiana primary Saturday – he’s up 14 points in a recent poll.

But he remains well behind front-runner Mitt Romney in delegates, and a number of April primaries loom in more Romney-friendly northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

The Hill’s Cameron Joseph reports that the likely victory in Louisiana probably won’t change the overall dynamics of the race.

Santorum, however, appealed to voters Saturday by saying his loss had improved his qualifications.

According to the NBC report, “Santorum said his ouster allowed him to see the legislative process from a perspective that explained Americans' frustrations with Washington.”

“It was really an eye-opening awakening experience for me, and I took that as a good sort of self-correction,” said Santorum, who served two terms.