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Santorum's Michigan pitch calls him a 'trusted conservative'

February 14, 2012|By Paul West
  • A screen capture from a new Rick Santorum ad shows a quote from radio host Glenn Beck.
A screen capture from a new Rick Santorum ad shows a quote from radio host… (YouTube.com )

Reporting from Southfield, Mich. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum -- in a neck-and-neck race with Mitt Romney in Michigan -- joined his rival in releasing new TV ad footage on Tuesday aimed at the state's voters.

Santorum's spots tout him as a "trusted conservative" and the choice of supporters of the "tea party" movement, social conservatives and evangelical Christians, all important elements of the Feb. 28 primary in Romney's home state.

One of the ads uses mainly written words -- praise in the form of quasi-endorsements and favorable quotes -- from Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, among others -- over an urgent sounding symphonic score (heavy on the percussion). The 30-second ad is filled with video of Santorum and his family, including three separate shots of his 3-year-old daughter Bella, whose health struggles have attracted wide attention and have become an increasing part of his campaign.

The only spoken words come at the end, in Santorum's approve-of statement, during which voters are urged to join his "fight."

The other spot is more interesting. It addresses one of Santorum's most glaring vulnerabilities, the widely held view among Republican voters that he does not have nearly as good a chance of defeating President Obama in the fall as Romney does.

A new CNN poll, released Tuesday afternoon, underscored that point. It found that 55% of Republicans think Romney would have the best chance of beating Obama, compared with 18% for Santorum (who nonetheless leads Romney in the national poll).

Electability is seldom a big deal in primaries -- and it won't be for conservative supporters who admire Santorum's conviction.  But it will be an issue for a relative handful of voters -- and if Santorum is to upset Romney in his backyard, he'll need every vote he can get. Obviously, the Santorum camp thinks it's a problem worth trying to fix.

The ad highlights Santorum's advantage over Romney in foreign policy credentials and mentions his "made in the USA jobs plan" – an important issue in Michigan, where unemployment runs above the national average.

Romney arrives in Michigan on Wednesday for a two-day swing, and Santorum will be making multiple stops on Thursday, including an address to the Detroit Economic Club and a party dinner in the county where Romney grew up.

paul.west@latimes.com

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