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Rick Santorum makes the most of his new Etch-A-Sketch

March 21, 2012|By John Hoeffel
  • Rick Santorum holds an Etch-A-Sketch while mocking rival Mitt Romney during a rally in Mandeville, La.
Rick Santorum holds an Etch-A-Sketch while mocking rival Mitt Romney during… (Bill Haber / Associated…)

Reporting from Mandeville, La. — Rick Santorum went shopping between his first stop on Wednesday at an oil services firm in Harvey, La., across the Mississippi River from New Orleans, and his second, speaking to tea party activists in this Republican stronghold on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

He stopped at a Toys R Us and bought four Etch-A-Sketches.

Santorum, handed a political gift by one of Mitt Romney’s campaign advisors, made the most of it campaigning in Louisiana, where he is hoping a big win on Saturday will fire up his insurgent candidacy after he finished far behind the GOP front-runner in Illinois on Tuesday.

Eric Fehrnstrom, responding to a question on CNN about whether Romney was being pushed too far to the right by Santorum and Newt Gingrich to beat President Obama in the general election, responded: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.”

He could not have done a better job, if he had been trying, to highlight Santorum’s argument that he is the only “conviction conservative” in the Republican presidential race.

Santorum, one of his new Etch-A-Sketches in his left hand, urged Louisiana voters to take Romney’s advisor at his word, arguing that the former Massachusetts governor cannot be trusted.

“They think they have this nomination in the bag, so it’s time to reset. It’s time to start moving to the middle,” he said. “You have an opportunity here in Louisiana to make a very clear statement: You’re not looking for someone who is the Etch-A-Sketch candidate. You are looking for someone who writes what they believe in in stone and stays true to what they say.”

Standing in from of his campaign sign, which is the word “Freedom” with a flying eagle in the “O,” Santorum ridiculed Romney’s victory speech Tuesday night, in which he promised to reduce the reach of the federal government and restore “economic freedom.” 

“You can give all the speeches you want, Governor Romney, about freedom, but you’ve got to have your policies match your rhetoric,” said Santorum, who was interrupted by enthusiastic cheers from a crowd of about 400 people. “But his rhetoric is soaring and beautiful, isn’t it? He talks about freedom, and he talks about repealing Obamacare, and he talks about oil and gas drilling. Wonderful talk last night. Then we find out this morning, well, he really didn’t mean it.”

Santorum suggested several times that Romney’s campaign was not about principles, but election strategy, and that the party’s leading candidate would say anything to get elected.

“We’re talking about big things, folks. This isn’t a joke or a game. We’re taking about important things in our society,” he said. “Freedom is not something that you go out and give nice, lofty, highbrow speeches about and turn around the next day and say, ‘No, when we have to go back to the general election, I’ll go back to my government-control approach.’ ”

Santorum, as he has done for months, ripped into Romney for approving a healthcare plan in Massachusetts that became the model for Obama’s health insurance reform and for once supporting the theory the burning of carbon fuels is warming the Earth’s atmosphere.

The former Pennsylvania senator said that he did not shift his views to match his audience and argued that this would make him a stronger leader on the world stage than Romney. “It’s not about anything except trying to be authentic,” he said. “We need a president not only that the American public trusts, but we need a president that our allies trust and our enemies respect.”

Santorum, obviously energized by the Romney campaign’s gaffe, called his afternoon stop in Mandeville at the Fleur de Lis Event Center the first  in his “Etch-A-Sketch tour of America.” He suggested that Louisiana, which will award 20 delegates in Saturday’s primary, could reset the race – and not in the way that Romney’s campaign hoped Illinois would.

“We’ve got a couple of days,” he said. “We have to do well, really well, here in Louisiana.”

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Rick Santorum makes the most of his new Etch-A-Sketch

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