Santorum Gives Closing Argument, Defends ‘Warts’ and Dings Perry

Jan 1, 2012 7:44pm

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — “Sioux City is where it began for us,” Rick Santorum said today in a coffee shop packed with about 150 people, telling the enthusiastic crowd that he’s held 372 town hall meetings with turnout ranging 300 to a single attendee.

He gave his closing argument to the crowd, but said if he is able to pull off a surprise win here Tuesday it won’t just be because Iowa’s influential evangelical community coalesced around him.

“This is your chance, heartland of America, to speak out,” Santorum said. “People say, ‘Well Rick you’re going to do well if you do well because of social conservatives or evangelicals and I said, ‘No we are going to do well because folks in Iowa understand … the foundation of America are strong families and strong faith.’”

With the crowd interrupting the former Pennsylvania senator throughout his speech with whoops, calls of “Amen,” and even a “We want you!” the scene was a far cry from the somewhat sleepy crowds that Santorum would sometimes meet as he barnstormed across the state over the last year.

Santorum said his campaign has between 1,100 and 1,200 caucus captains secured, but asked attendees to sign up to speak on behalf of the candidate in their northwestern Iowa communities as well.

“This is an election that’s going to be very close. There are only two more days and there is a lot of work to be done,” Santorum said.

He told the crowd his record “is not perfect” and he’s sure his “friends will point out my warts.”

It was actually a voter that pointed out one of those “warts” when he asked Santorum what he should tell friends who are concerned that he endorsed Arlen Specter in 2004 over the more conservative Pat Toomey. The voter said he has “a lot of people asking.”

Santorum said he went to Specter with a proposition: He would endorse him if Specter, as chairman of the judiciary committee, would help get conservative Supreme Court justices confirmed.

Specter replied that as long as he was consulted he would support President Bush’s nominees, Santorum said.

“I said, ‘That’s good enough for me, because that means we will have two or three 30-plus-year appointments on the court and I’m willing to live with a senator for six years who doesn’t vote with us all the time,’” Santorum said. “I’ll take someone for two or three folks who are going to be with us for 30 year in exchange for that and that’s what I did.”

He added that his wife disagreed with him and they still “disagree to this day on that.”

“But, when people ask me about Arlen Specter I have two words to say: Roberts and Alito,” Santorum said.

The Specter endorsement is one mark on Santorum’s record that has plagued him here. It is common to see fliers in car windows or even passed out at Santorum events bashing him for backing Specter.

Of course, it’s not just voters pointing out his “warts.” His opponents are as well. Just days ago when polls started to show Santorum surging, Rick Perry released a radio ad attacking Santorum for supporting earmarks.

In Sioux City, he got some laughs at Perry’s expense when telling voters that getting rid of federal agencies isn’t as easy as some of his rivals make it out to be.

“I love these candidates get these huge applause lines, ‘ I’m going to get rid of this one and this one and ohhhh,’” Santorum said, teasing Perry for when he forgot during a debate the third federal agency he would eliminate if he became president.

The crowd erupted in big laughs at the dig. He then told a story about a private moment with his rival on the debate stage.

“He was answering a question on … when the drone crashed into Iran and he said President Obama had two choices and then he paused and said, ‘No three choices,’ and I thought oh no. I was standing right next to him and I bowed and said a little prayer for him and said, ‘Oh, don’ t do it again,’ and so he finished and leaned over to me and said, ‘I was taking a risk with that third one,” Santorum said, attempting a Texas drawl.

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