Rick Santorum, Ann Romney Tout Coal Mining Grandfathers and Rust Belt Roots in Michigan

Feb 17, 2012 1:39am

NOVI, Michigan—Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are not known to agree, at least not recently, as they are waging an all out battle to win the Michigan primary, but this evening it was Santorum and Ann Romney who both spoke of a common family trait: their coalmining grandfathers.

“My grandfather never saw the sun for six days a week, and it was on Sunday when they spent a lot of time in church that he saw the sun,” Ann Romney said of her Welsh grandfather. “I think of that and I think of the heritage that I come from and how my grandfather made the sacrifice to bring his family to this country for hope and opportunity and how blessed we all are for those ancestors who sacrificed and made those decisions to come to the land of freedom, and how much of an obligation we do have to remember them and to continue to fight to keep this country the hope of the earth.”

Ann Romney and her husband grew up here, but Santorum is now tied or leading him in recent polls in the state. Mitt Romney is touting his hometown roots while Santorum is pushing his blue collar background and a populist message.

Both Santorum and Ann Romney began their speeches at the Oakland Park Lincoln Day Dinner here talking about how the hard work of their grandfathers has shaped their lives.

“I talked about my grandfather a lot because he came here to this country and I talk about he worked in the coalmines until he was 72 years old and sort of coalmined his way to freedom,” Santorum said of his grandfather, Pietro Santorum, who came here from Italy during Mussolini’s rise. “But what I didn’t mention, what I failed to mention was when my grandfather first came he actually came to Detroit and worked in the auto factories for two years.”

Santorum then said his grandfather lost his job, returned to Italy and then came back to southwest Pennsylvania to work in the mines.

“And it’s those roots, those roots growing up the grandson of a coalminer, growing up in a steel town in Butler, Pennsylvania, that have forged me as someone who understands the greatness of our country and the importance of the industrial heartland of America,” Santorum said.

Although this was a Party event, Santorum is pushing a working class message he’s hoping will connect with struggling Michiganders — a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country– and has been hit hard by the economic downturn.

Both Romney and Santorum’s speeches had heavy Michigan themes, with Ann Romney mentioning her childhood in this part of the state and stressing her and her husband’s ties here and their empathy with its residents.

“Now, as we’re going through another difficulty and it’s another challenge that we’re facing, I look across this country and I see how many people are struggling, and how many people have lost their jobs, and how difficult it is for Mitt and I to recognize that so many of the people we love and so many of the friends that we had in Michigan are struggling,” Romney said, before telling the crowd of about 1,400 Republicans to vote for her husband because he can turn around the economy.

Santorum told the crowd they can be a “game changer in this primary” and a “game changer in the general election.”

“We live in a time of great consequence and Michigan, Michigan is in the center of it,” Santorum said giving his pitch to the room. “This is a historic election and Michigan is in a historic place in that election. You stand upon the shoulders of your ancestors, the folks that built America right here. The pride that you have in this town, of what you’ve done for this country.”

Santorum revved up the crowd by touting its grand history of automotive manufacturing saying, “You helped build America. You helped create wealth. You moved people.”

“I come from steel country,” Santorum said of his Rust Belt roots. “We feel that same pride about what we did to forge a great and powerful nation. And there’s no area of the country that can take more credit for that than you right here and therefore you hold a great degree of honor here.”

As he left the event, the candidate was asked about some eyebrow raising comments his main financial supporter said earlier Thursday on MSNBC.

Foster Friess, a multimillionaire and main donor to the pro-Santorum super PAC the “Red, White, and Blue Fund” made an off color joke when Andrea Mitchell pressed him about whether he agreed with Santorum’s stance on contraception.

“Back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” Friess said. “The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Santorum said he’s “not responsible for everything everyone in my campaign — or supporters of my campaign — say.”

He called the joke “stupid” and said Friess is a “well known jokester.”

“I’m not responsible for every bad joke that someone who I happen to know or who supports me tells,” Santorum told reporters.

Friess will appear with Santorum when the candidate addresses a fundraiser for the super PAC in Dallas later this month.

SHOWS:
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus