Santorum Says He Can Win Critical Swing States

The Republican presidential candidate makes no apologies for his social conservatism.

In what may have been the final televised debate forum in the Republican Party’s presidential primary race on Wednesday, Rick Santorum made no apologies for his cultural conservatism and argued that he could win in industrial states that will likely decide November’s presidential vote.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who has risen to the top of the field in opinion polls after winning three election contests in the American Midwest in early February, has, far more than this three fellow contenders, talked about social issues, including his opposition to abortion and what he considers the disintegration of the family.

The left gets all upset, ‘oh, look at him talking about these things!’ Here’s the difference between me and the left and they don’t get this — just because I’m talking about it doesn’t mean I want a government program to fix it. That’s what they do. That’s not what we do.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is still the favorite to clinch the nomination despite his struggle to win right-wing votes, agreed and pointed out that 40 percent of children are born out of wedlock. “These kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they’re in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single family homes and we haven’t been wiling to talk about this,” he said.

Although the economy and unemployment are likely to be major themes in November’s election, social issues came to the forefront last week when the Obama Administration compelled health insurers to cover contraception, including Catholic institutes which teach abstinence.

The issue, said former House speaker Newt Gingrich, whose popularity among Republican primary voters plummeted in recent weeks, is one of coercion. “When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move toward tyranny,” he argued, “because the government has the power of force.”

According to Santorum, “that’s what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts” when he implemented a health reform plan there that served as the model for Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care overhaul. “It would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obamacare, which is the biggest issue in this race of government control in your lives, to be the nominee of our party,” he said.

Romney promised to repeal Obamacare if elected president because the program cuts health support for the elderly and raises taxes. The Massachusetts plan, he argued, was less complex and legitimate because individual states can mandate citizens to buy insurance where the federal government cannot.

Santorum’s strong social conservatism is likely to resonate with primary voters even in Romney’s home state of Michigan which votes next Tuesday. A Pennsylvania native and the grandson of a coal miner, Santorum’s working-class roots contrast sharply to Romney’s image as an out-of-touch billionaire.

“I’m the best person from the state which is a key swing state from a region of the country which is going to decide this election,” he said Wednesday night, “across the Rust Belt of America.”

Obama would be hard pressed to win reelection in November if he isn’t able to carry Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three battleground states that wield 48 electoral votes between them.

The Republican candidates’ opposition to the 2008 bailout of two of Detroit’s automakers won’t go well with blue-collar voters in Michigan. Santorum said that at least he had been “consistent” in his criticism of government support for private enterprise whereas Romney endorsed the Wall Street bailouts but said, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.” Romney, whose father was an American Motors executive before he became governor of Michigan, explained that he would have preferred the car manufacturers to enter bankruptcy proceedings before they received help.