Santorum Hits Gingrich: ‘Within Three Years Conservatives…Tried to Throw Him Out’

Jan 22, 2012 7:30pm

CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — Rick Santorum began his Florida swing the day after his third-place finish in the South Carolina primary at a rally outside of a traditional GOP campaign stop here.

In front of an enthusiastic crowd of 200 people that interrupted him several times with cheers of “Rick, Rick, Rick,” he said: “We are going to campaign all up and down the state of Florida.”

He hit both Newt Gingrich, who won the first-in-the-South primary Saturday, and Mitt Romney, who placed second.

“Trust is a big issue in this election,” he said, standing in the sun on a perfect South Florida day. “Who do you trust who is going to do what they say they are going to do?

“You look at the record of someone who was the governor of Massachusetts and, well, didn’t necessarily govern all that conservatively,” Santorum said, before introducing a new attack on Gingrich.

“You look at someone who was speaker of the House, and again, these are friends, I know they are good people, but when Newt was speaker of the House, well, within three years the conservatives within the House of Representatives tried to throw him out, and in the fourth year they did. Why? Because he wasn’t governing as a conservative,” Santorum said. “He didn’t live up to all the hype.”

Santorum, standing on a stage in a strip mall parking lot outside of Wings Plus, said he was the “conservative firebrand” other Republicans would come to if they needed help with legislation.

“We were the one standing up and fighting,” Santorum said. “I was the go-to guy.

“It’s great to be glib, but it’s best to be principled. It’s better to have all of your ducks in a row,” Santorum said. “It’s better to have someone of principal, someone who has been there, someone who’s not afraid when they are getting accused of being intolerant or whatever the case may be stands up and says, ‘I’m not, I’m not and I believe what I did was right.’”

As he has in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, Santorum also spoke about Iran and the threat a nuclear weapon in that country’s hands would be to Israel, an important issue for many of South Florida’s Jewish voters. One man in the crowd held up an Israeli flag while another held a homemade “Santorum Supports Israel” sign.

He warned the Iranians that if he becomes president and they develop a nuclear weapon, he would tell them: “Dismantle it, or we will dismantle it for you.”

His almost hour-long speech was also notable for what it did not mention. He did not urge the crowd to go out and early vote, something Floridians have been able to do since Saturday (Sunshine state voters have also been able to vote by absentee ballot since earlier this month and more than 170,000 have been returned).

As he walked off the stage into the parking lot, making his way through a mass of supporters into the restaurant, one man told him he had already voted for the former Pennsylvania senator. He thanked him. Another older voter told Santorum he should have mentioned Cuba.

“In this area you need to talk about Cuba,” the man said.

Santorum, who was signing an autograph, apologized, saying the voter was right and he should have included it.

He beamed as he slowly made his way through supporters seeking photos and autographs, a warm reception at his first event in this important early voting and general election battleground state, but he did try to explain away losses in both New Hampshire and South Carolina.

He claimed both Romney and Gingrich had a home field advantage, noting Gingrich’s district was in the neighboring state of Georgia when he was in the House. Gingrich has been out of office since 1998 and currently lives in Virginia, as does Santorum.

“Just put this in perspective. We’ve had three races. One in Mitt Romney’s backyard in the state of New Hampshire. He has a home in New Hampshire, he has campaigned there for six years. Last night we had a race in South Carolina right across the border from where Newt Gingrich was and pretty much his backyard and where he staked his claim, and they were able to win in their backyard,” Santorum said, before touting his own victory in Iowa. “Well, there was one race that was in nobody’s backyard. There was one race that you had to go out and run a level playing field and compete, and we won that race.”

After his speech Santorum — dressed not in his signature sweater vest, but in a white dress shirt and slacks — walked into Wings Plus, shaking hands and greeting voters. The restaurant filled up as the crowd entered the spot that is a traditional Republican campaign stop.

The campaign rally was stunningly different than his usual town halls in the other early states. Instead of taking questions from the audience — something required in Iowa and New Hampshire, but less so here in Florida — he talked for almost an hour. Before he got there, a reggae band played songs mixed with language urging the crowd to vote Obama out, which was also quite the change from his South Carolina events, where the Duggar family from the TLC show “19 Kids and Counting” were usually on hand to warm up the crowd.

About 20 Ron Paul supporters with signs walked around the crowd during the speech, but did not interrupt the address.

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