Santorum Lifts CPAC Crowd, Focuses on Obama and Romney

Feb 10, 2012 12:29pm
gty santorum cpac tk 120210 wblog Santorum Lifts CPAC Crowd, Focuses on Obama and Romney

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The Conservative Political Action Conference isn’t endorsing anyone for president, but Rick Santorum clearly has a huge amount of support here this year.

Santorum’s fans, many of whom say they have hopped onto the bandwagon only in the past couple of weeks, have descended onto the CPAC parade in northwest Washington with an abundance of stickers and other campaign paraphernalia to show their support.

There was barely an empty seat in the cavernous ballroom at the Marriott Friday morning as Santorum spoke to the conservative movement, his wife and six of his kids surrounding him.

“We are not just wings of the Republican Party,” Santorum said to enthusiastic cheers. “We are the Republican Party.”

It appeared as if Santorum was preaching to the choir. At one point, he rhetorically asked the audience which candidate has the best ideas to challenge President Obama, and before he could finish his thought, a smattering of people yelled “you!” and “Santorum!”

“I guess I can quit now because you’re all convinced of that,” Santorum joked.

Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP nomination, is scheduled to speak to the conservatives he’s tried so hard to court a few hours after Santorum did. Without mentioning him by name, Santorum said Romney created the “stepchild of ObamaCare” in Massachusetts and that as the nominee, Romney would “give that issue away.”

Whereas at one point in the race Santorum might have focused his attacks on Newt Gingrich, his speech at CPAC was directed solely at Obama and Romney.

Santorum supporters at the conference said the former Pennsylvania senator’s hat trick in Tuesday’s voting contests has reinvigorated them.

Kermit Bell, an information systems worker from Palmyra, Pa., said that after supporting Rick Perry and then Herman Cain, he settled on Santorum as the true conservative in the race just within the past couple of weeks.

“I was a little worried in the weeks after Iowa,” said Mike Rogers, a Santorum supporter from Pennsylvania. “But I’m feeling really great after Tuesday night.”

Wendy Shadrix, an undecided voter from North Carolina who cheered for Santorum throughout his speech, called Romney a “Rockefeller Republican,” and said “that’s not what we need right now.”

Both Shadrix and Rogers said that they would support Romney if he were to become the GOP nominee because they believe he’ll be better than Obama.

Santorum got his biggest cheers when he derided Obama’s recent mandate that religious groups provide health care services that include contraception.

“It’s not about contraception. It’s about economic liberty,” Santorum said as the crowd rose to its feet. “It’s about government control of your lives, and it’s got to stop.”

Said Bell, “I thought he hit it.”

Watch Santorum’s speech here.

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