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In South Carolina, Rick Santorum vows to restore manufacturing jobs

January 11, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • Rick Santorum embraces his wife, Karen, after addressing supporters in Manchester, N.H. Tuesday evening.
Rick Santorum embraces his wife, Karen, after addressing supporters in… (T.J. Kirpatrick / Getty…)

Reporting from Ridgeway, S.C. — Rick Santorum returned to South Carolina on Wednesday after a disappointing fourth-place finish in New Hampshire, promising voters in a crowded diner that he would jump start manufacturing in the United States and bring jobs back to small towns.

It was the second visit by Santorum to Ridgeway, a small town that features a quaint Main Street, white houses with wrap-around porches and a historic one-room police station from 1940. But this time his polling numbers are much higher than they were three months ago.

“We had a situation in New Hampshire where you had a candidate up there who lived up there, that basically has been campaigning there for six years,” he said. “But South Carolina is open for anyone.”

Santorum has said that he thinks he has the best chance in South Carolina, a conservative state where the former Pennsylvania senator's focus on family values resonates with many Republican voters. He told his audience that he had arrived in the state at 3:30 in the morning with his wife and seven children.

Dressed in a blue blazer -- a departure from the ubiquitous sweater vest that even has its own Twitter feed -- Santorum outlined a four-point plan that he said would bring manufacturing jobs back to small towns.

“We put together a plan really focused on Ridgeway and small-town America that was built because people were able to go to work and make things,” he said as diners had their lunch and rain poured outside on the brick buildings along Palmer Street.

His plan includes eliminating corporate income taxes, taxing products made overseas, repealing business regulations he says President Obama has put into place and freeing up oil drilling and coal production to bring down manufacturers’ energy costs.

“This is a president who thinks he’s smarter that everybody,” Santorum said, then criticized Obama for trying to run the lives of people in small towns.

The manufacturing speech drew applause and supportive shouts from the audience, especially the line about repealing regulations.

The plan “will help small-town America grow and prosper,” he said. “We’ll make South Carolina the manufacturing mecca of the country.”

The speech slightly deviated from Santorum’s remarks earlier in the week, in which he focused on his faith and compared himself to Ronald Reagan. But it seemed to resonate with voters in South Carolina, which has the worst economy of the three early voting states, and was tied for the third-worst unemployment rate in the country this summer.

Undecided voter Chris Harley saw Newt Gingrich speak in Rock Hill on Wednesday morning, then drove to Ridgeway in the afternoon with his wife and three children to see Santorum. Harley said he’s looking for a candidate that can “bark a little louder” on defense and won’t cut Pentagon spending.

Santorum took questions after his stump speech, shedding some light on the issues that most concern South Carolina voters. People asked what Santorum would do to close the borders, cut government and repeal Obama’s healthcare plan.

He was exposed to some local color during the question-and-answer period, during which time a woman followed his answer to an immigration question by shouting, “If you take the carrot off the stick, the jackass stops moving,” drawing laughter from the crowd.

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