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Rick Santorum, in pitch to New Hampshire: 'Lead and be bold'

January 04, 2012|By Maeve Reston
(AP Photo/Charles Krupa )

Reporting from Brentwood, N.H. — The night after his narrow loss to Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum argued that he was the authentic conservative in the Republican presidential race and urged New Hampshire voters to ignore his position in the polls.

Though the former Pennsylvania senator has campaigned extensively in New Hampshire, he has yet to show any traction here, where he has been in the low single digits. And while social conservatives and evangelical voters drove Santorum’s campaign to a near-victory Tuesday night in Iowa, those voters are just a small sliver of the electorate in New Hampshire. Though most New Hampshire Republicans are economic conservatives, the majority of them are more moderate than Santorum on social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

But Santorum argued at a senior home in Brentwood on Wednesday night that voters did not need to line up with him exactly on every issue. He said voters had gotten to know his views at more than 100 town halls in New Hampshire over the last year – though many of those events were sparsely attended – and that he had campaigned here as much as Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who has spent virtually all of his time here.

“I believe that if you are going to ask the people of New Hampshire, if you are going to ask the people of Iowa, South Carolina and Florida, to support you, then you have to show that you can win in every area of the country,” Santorum said.   “We’re going to go out and show [in] a very short time frame here in New Hampshire that we will have what it takes to get the momentum and to raise our numbers up, and to say that we’re the kind of candidate that the people of New Hampshire can rally behind.”

He touted his early Senate victories in Pennsylvania, where he won in predominantly Democratic areas -- glossing over his 17-point loss to then-state treasurer Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. As he often does, Santorum attributed those victories to voters who might not have shared his ideology but trusted him.

“You may not agree with me on every issue; I suspect you don’t. But what you know is I agree with me on every issue,” he said to laughter.

Santorum did not mention Romney by name, but urged voters not to “settle for a Pyrrhic victory.”

“Don’t settle for someone who can win, but then can’t do, won’t do, and has no track record of doing the big things that are necessary to change this country, both from a standpoint of our economy, from the standpoint of our culture and the standpoint of our national security,” he said. “Lead and be bold because this is not a time for us to shrink. This is a time for us, just like 1980 was, a time for us to have bold colors, not pale pastels.”

He noted that New Hampshire had fought to keep its first-in-the-nation primary status – arguing that comes with a responsibility.

“You fight to be first,” Santorum said. “You have responsibility that comes with that, and that is to lead, not pay attention to what the polls say, not pay attention to what the pundits say. How many pundits were right over the last six months about what was going to happen in this race? None. Serially wrong. I mean they’re worse than weathermen. So don’t trust them. Trust yourself.”

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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