WASHINGTON -- Ryan Miner remembers watching a fat piece of sausage splatter with a thud against a picture of Sen. Rick Santorum adorning the side of the senator’s campaign RV.
It was fall 2006, and Miner, then a Santorum intern, was helping feed a group of Pittsburgh Steelers fans tailgating outside of Heinz Field. But it was a tough sell -- especially because the Santorum volunteers were peddling snacks and campaign literature to rowdy, buzzed hordes. The crowd eventually turned on the volunteers, and a weapon of choice was Polish.
"Fuck you, Rick Santorum!" Miner recalls the sausage-tosser shouting.
In short order, the tailgaters assailed the Santorum volunteers with whatever they could get their hands on: sausage, cookies, half-empty cups of beer, and beer cans.
"For the most part it was pretty unpleasant," recalls Bryan Nagy, who had joined his friend Miner for the event so he could get some free food. "A lot of booing. Some people would spit in the general direction of the bus."
The event was supposed to build camaraderie and sell Santorum as a beloved member of Steeler Nation. Yet, like much of that brutal 2006 campaign that ended Santorum's Senate career, it simply reinforced the impression that Santorum -- whom the electorate had come to regard as sanctimonious and out-of-touch -- played for the away team.