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CPAC: Santorum argues he offers best contrast to Obama

February 10, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Santorum arrives on stage to speak during an address to the Conservative Political Action Committee Feb. 10, 2012.
Rick Santorum arrives on stage to speak during an address to the Conservative… (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty…)

In a play to rally conservatives behind his presidential bid, Rick Santorum sought to link Mitt Romney to the Obama administration's controversial rules mandating coverage of contraceptives, arguing that the Massachusetts health law paved the way for the increased government role.

The former Pennsylvania senator's speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington comes at the end of a week that saw him score surprise victories in a trio of low-turnout nominating contests that stalled Romney's march to the Republican nomination.

Santorum, joined on stage by members of his family, cast himself as a principled and unwavering conservative who would present the clearest contrast to President Obama in the fall.

"Folks, I've been here before. We know each other. We've worked together in the vineyards," Santorum said. "I know you, and you know me, and that's important."

Though he never mentioned Romney by name, Santorum's speech focused on the aspects of his candidacy that have given conservatives the most pause. Broadly, it is the notion that Romney lacks a real core, and has altered his views and his rhetoric to fit circumstances. He was introduced by a man who told a joke about running into a conservative, a moderate and a liberal at the bar. The punchline: "Hi, Mitt!"

Santorum tore into the Obama administration for the proposed birth control mandate -- a policy that it now is amending to provide exceptions for religious institutions.

"It's not about contraception. It's about economic liberty. It's about freedom of speech. It's about freedom of religion. It's about government control of your lives. And it's got to stop," he said.

Later, he said that Romney built the "largest government-run healthcare system in the United States," and "the stepchild of Obamacare." By nominating Romney, conservatives would "simply give the issue away of government control of your health."

"Ladies and gentlemen, we're not going to win with money. We're going to win with contrasts. We're going to win with ideas," he said. "We need conservatives now to rally for a conservative to go into November, to excite the conservative base, to pull with that excitement moderate voters, and to defeat Barack Obama in the fall."

michael.memoli@latimes.com
twitter.com/mikememoli

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