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Rick Santorum says Michigan was 'huge win' for his campaign

February 29, 2012|By Robin Abcarian

Reporting from Powell, Tenn. — He lost Michigan's Republican presidential primary to favorite son Mitt Romney, but Wednesday afternoon, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was crowing about his showing in the Great Lakes State. He may have lost the popular vote, but in his view, he scored a moral victory.

Michigan "was a huge win for us," Santorum told reporters after speaking to a crowd of about 1,000 at Temple Baptist Church here, many of them conservatively dressed students from nearby Crown College. "Don't give Romney all the spin. We went into his backyard, he spent a fortune ... and we came out of there with the same number of delegates he does. We are in great shape."

According to the Detroit Free Press, the tally is not final, but Santorum and Romney appear to have each won seven congressional districts in Tuesday's contest. Most of the state's delegates are awarded by congressional district.

Santorum, who is Catholic, snapped at CNN reporter Joe Johns for noting that he appeared to have lost the Catholic vote in Michigan.

"You want to talk about one segment of the population?" Santorum said. "Come on, Joe."

On Sunday, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Santorum about a speech he gave in which he said John F. Kennedy's famous 1960 speech about the separation of church and state made him want to vomit. (Kennedy's speech, delivered when he ran for president, was designed to allay fears his first loyalty would be to the Catholic Church, not the Constitution.)

Some have speculated that Catholics are more moderate, in general, than Santorum, or that they were put off by his stand on the Kennedy speech, which he reiterated on ABC. "You bet that makes you throw up," he told Stephanopoulos. (On the Laura Ingraham radio talk show Tuesday, Santorum backpedaled: "I wish I had that particular line back," he said.)

Earlier, as he stood in the church in front of the Crown College choir, Santorum was buoyant. He introduced his daughter, Elizabeth, a college student who often campaigns for her father, calling her "one of the great women of my life."

"We had a much better night in Michigan than maybe was first reported," Santorum said. "If you look at this state outside of his home county, we actually ran dead even. ... And here's the really important part: delegates. We actually won half the congressional districts, so we are going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates and he's going to walk out of Michigan with 15 delegates.

"We are out here today heading to Super Tuesday with some wind at our back."

Though he often touts his own endorsements, including the recent defection of Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine to his side from Romney's, in his brief conversation with reporters, Santorum downplayed the importance of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam's endorsement of Romney.
 
"Every endorsement there is it seems like is going for Mitt Romney," Santorum said. "This is the establishment. This is just what happens. You know, we're the insurgent candidate here, we're the ones going out here scrappin' and clawin', and you know what? We're doing all right."

Santorum, who has tried to capitalize on a series of Romney gaffes about money and privilege, has worked to tailor his message to working-class voters, and said he expects to fare well in Ohio, the biggest prize in next week's handful of primaries.

"We feel our message, which is about guy from a steel town in western Pennsylvania, is gonna play very, very well across the state of Ohio," said Santorum, who criticized President Obama last week as a "snob" for suggesting that a college education is part of the American dream.

The message resonated with James Arthur, 51, an inventor who recently moved from Orange County to what he said was a friendlier business environment in Tennessee. "It strikes me that he is a man of the people," said Arthur, a college graduate. "I agree with him on the statement that not everyone needs to go to college. It's a great thing to aspire to, but it's not a guarantee of success."

Sitting at the back of the church, Rebekah Corbin, 35, held her sleeping 5-month old son, Jedidiah. "Rick Santorum is the only one who says what he believes and is willing to be unpopular. My hope and prayer is that he will win." She described herself as a "Bible-believing conservative" who worries that "the media doesn't want real America to be heard."

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