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Rick Santorum wins crowd with call to 'fight for freedom'

February 21, 2012|By Mitchell Landsberg
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the Maricopa County Lincoln Day Luncheon in Phoenix.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks at the Maricopa… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

Reporting from Phoenix — Rick Santorum’s surge in the Republican primary campaign has inevitably prompted greater scrutiny in the news media and blogosphere. On Tuesday, as he arrived in Arizona for a campaign swing and televised debate, Santorum suggested that he didn’t find the attention entirely flattering.

Speaking to a Lincoln Day luncheon sponsored by Maricopa County Republicans in Phoenix, Santorum asked the audience: “Will you be the generation that sat on the sidelines and watched as candidate after candidate comes up, and the national media takes their whack at them to try to destroy them in every way possible, as they’ve done with every single Republican candidate, and as they will between now the election? Will you sit on the sidelines and say, 'Boy, that’s not fair,’ or will you stand up and fight for freedom?”

He was met with a standing ovation, the most enthusiastic response given to anything he said in the half-hour speech.

Recent polls leading up to the Feb. 28 Arizona primary show the former Pennsylvania senator narrowing the gap but still trailing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. That election has been largely overshadowed by the Michigan primary the same day, but will take center stage Wednesday with a televised debate in Mesa.

Asked how Arizona Republicans view Santorum, Sam Stone, campaign spokesman for congressional candidate Martha McSally, said: “I think he’s a better fit than he was two or three months ago. … He’s showing himself to be more electable than Romney right now.”

mitchell.landsberg@latimes.com


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