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Political Mercury

August 11, 2011

Santorum says he's GOP antidote to Obama

By Douglas Burns

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says his conservative credentials and electoral success in rough-and-tumble Pennsylvania politics position him well to take the fight to President Barack Obama in a general election.

"The people of Iowa gave us Barack Obama four years ago and now you have to give us the antidote," Santorum said.

Speaking at the Swan Lake Conservation Education Center in Carroll on Aug. 2 to a midday crowd of about 40 people, Santorum, 53, a Virginia-born former U.S. senator and congressman from Pennsylvania, said he was inspired to enter the race following the passage of Democratic-led health-care reform.

"Obamacare is a game-changer for America," Santorum said. "Obamacare will do the ultimate damage to freedom."

Santorum, a Catholic, who along with his wife, Karen, have seven children, compiled a consistent pro-life record in Congress, a fact he stressed during the event in Carroll.

The Pennsylvania Republican said his faith informs his politics, and he was making no apologies for that.

"This is the line from the left, that only secular views are allowed in the public square," Santorum said.

He added, "Everything has a moral component."

Santorum was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 at the age of 32, and from 1995 to 2007, served in the Senate. In 2000, he was elected by his peers to the position of Senate Republican Conference chairman.

In 2006 Santorum was defeated in a landslide by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., the son of a former Pennsylvania governor. Casey faces re-election in 2012 but Santorum said he had no interest in pursuing that seat, that he'd put in his time in the Senate and was prepared for the White House — which he also said was a more family-friendly place to serve than the Senate.

Santorum said his success in the politics of a battleground state like Pennsylvania should make him a stronger candidate in the Iowa caucuses. But Santorum said he is fighting not just the rest of the GOP field but a hostile national media, which he said fears he might have the right stuff to successfully challenge Obama.

"They're doing their very best to bury me before I can get started," Santorum said.

According to polling and pundits, across the political spectrum, Santorum is widely considered a long shot in the Iowa caucuses, much less the GOP nomination contest nationally.

"I felt called to go out and do this," Santorum said. "On paper it doesn't make a whole lot of sense."

Following his speech Santorum fielded about a dozen questions from the audience.

On foreign policy Santorum said he is a fierce advocate of Israel, arguing that the United States is the only nation that can stand with the Jewish state based on immigration patterns in Europe that are bringing more Muslims to the borders and into the populations of places like France, Germany and England.

"Israel will be alone but for us," Santorum said.

He said Iran poses the most significant threat to Israel, and that the United States should factor this into foreign policy.

"The first place to start to give them (Iran) street cred in the radical Islamic world is Israel," Santorum said.

Santorum said another major concern is the relatively low birthrate in Europe compared with higher ones in nations with strong concentrations of Muslims.

"They (European countries) are committing genocide, and guess who's filling the void?" he said.

Responding to an audience question, Santorum said that like all of Iowa's congressional delegation, he opposed the debt-ceiling/deficit-reduction plan that passed the U.S. House and U.S. Senate. Santorum said Republicans missed an opportunity to rein in more spending and reduce the size of government. The deal, as brokered, sets the stage for potential major cuts to defense spending and tax increases, Santorum said.

On other matters, Santorum said tax reform should involve consideration of an elimination of deductions for summer homes. He is opposed to a flat tax, saying there should be higher rates for those with more robust incomes. Santorum wants to cut the corporate tax for manufacturers to zero to encourage business start-ups in a sector that provides higher wages. CV

Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.

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