February 15, 2012 in City

Santorum touts electability to crowd of 600 in Idaho

CdA speech challenges Obama, Romney on health care
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Picture story: Rick Santorum visits Coeur d’Alene
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Coeur d’Alene High School students, from left, Adam Borsheim, Derek Scharf and Ty Higbie, pose for a photo with presidential candidate Rick Santorum after the candidate’s speech Tuesday in Coeur d’Alene.
(Full-size photo)

Rick Santorum on Tuesday became the first presidential candidate to visit the Inland Northwest, just as national polls showed him at the top of the Republican field.

In response to questions from reporters after a speech, Santorum downplayed the polls, noting that he had de-emphasized the same polls in recent weeks when they showed him behind.

“We just have to earn it one state at a time,” he said. He added, however, that the boost “has helped us in fundraising.”

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, spoke for about 35 minutes and answered audience questions for an hour more at the Hagadone Events Center in Coeur d’Alene. About 600 packed the room, and police turned away dozens of cars.

Addressing the crowd in jeans and his signature sweater vest, Santorum focused on what he described as attacks on freedoms by big government and President Barack Obama’s “hostility” toward religion.

“When government gives you rights – not God – but government, when the government goes around and says we’re going to give you the right to health care, they can tell you how to exercise that right because now they own you,” he said.

He said if Obama had been around at the time of the Revolutionary War, he and his supporters would have been “Tories” who would have been loyal to a king because “he had the proper lineage, he had the proper education.”

“I suspect that if Barack Obama and his ilk were around in 1776 we would have had the Declaration of Dependence,” Santorum said. “They would be perfectly happy having the elites of society governing us. They would have been Tories.”

Santorum didn’t turn to economic policy until nearly 20 minutes into his speech.

This election is about the economy and jobs, Santorum said, “but, ultimately, it is about the role of government in your lives.”

He said that he is the best Republican to take on Obama in the November election because of his position on health care.

“If we don’t win this election, Obamacare will be implemented,” he said. “If Obamacare is implemented, the America as I describe it to you will be no more.”

Without mentioning the name of the other Republican front-runner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Santorum mocked the health care law that Romney signed when he was governor.

“Don’t go to Massachusetts to try to get any health care,” he said. “You’ll wait in a line a long time.”

Santorum also criticized another of his other GOP opponents, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, for Paul’s criticism of national defense spending. Santorum said he’ll cut other spending but keep the defense budget intact. He promised that government would spend less each year he is in office.

“What we need is somebody who is going to cut government and cut taxes and regulations and get this economy growing again,” he said.

Santorum said it would be difficult to pass a constitutional amendment banning abortion, but he outlined other legislative paths to outlaw it.

“I know life begins at conception,” he said. “It’s an indisputable biological fact.”

He also said that scientists who believe that human activity is a significant cause of global warming are wrong.

“It turned out that man-made global warming wasn’t climate science, it was political science,” he said.

Many in the audience said they support Santorum because of his religious convictions and the lack of baggage from scandal.

Tim and Julie Plass, who live near Post Falls, came to the event with five of their 10 children. The Plasses, who attend Latin Mass, have supported Santorum since last summer.

“He will bring morality back in government,” Tim Plass said.

John and Shonnie Scarola, of Post Falls, said they came to the event leaning in favor of Romney. They left supporting Santorum.

“After listening to him we’re both very convinced that he is the right candidate,” Shonnie Scarola said.

John Scarola added that one of his main criteria for a candidate is one who can beat Obama.

“Obama is destroying our country the way we know it,” he said.

After taking questions, Santorum stayed in the room for another half-hour, shaking hands, signing autographs and answering questions from voters and the press before heading to an event in Boise.

Idaho holds its caucuses on March 6, with Washington’s on March 3.

“I hope the conservative bastion of Idaho speaks loudly,” he said.


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