Santorum doubles down: 'Emotions of men' a concern with women in combat

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"The other example is the emotions of men, dealing with women in combat, and having men not focusing potentially on the mission but on the natural instinct to protect someone that's a female," Santorum said.

Santorum said he preferred the model of the Israeli army, which does not assign women to combat roles but has a wider number of overall positions open to women.

"I laid out the rationale Israelis used, because they in fact do have a lot more utilization of different people in their military," Santorum said. "But they have drawn the line here because that potentially undermines the mission that needs to be accomplished."

Santorum's comments have drawn criticism from women's advocacy groups. An ABC/Washington Post poll last year found that 73 percent of women support women serving in frontline roles.

Santorum has also argued that gays and lesbians should not be allowed to serve openly in the military while on the campaign trail, prompting protests from gay-rights organizations.