Santorum Says America Needs Someone Who Understands ‘What Average Working People Need’

Feb 20, 2012 4:36pm

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Rick Santorum played up his blue collar roots while pitching himself to voters in this Ohio Valley town that was hit hard by the decline of the steel industry.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what average working people in America need to be able to provide for themselves and their families,” Santorum said to cheers from the enthusiastic crowd of about 500 in a restaurant here.

He’s been pushing this message in Ohio and Michigan, trying to connect with voters by talking about his grandfather who was a coal miner and his time representing the “steel mills” of Pennsylvania.

Santorum is trying to contrast himself with Mitt Romney without being explicit, and although his grandfather did work in the mines until the age of 72, Santorum was raised on the grounds of a Veteran’s Administration hospital. His father was a psychologist, his mother a nurse.

At Froelich’s restaurant, Santorum focused on energy and environmental policy and again hit “radical environmentalists” for what he sees restricting industry and killing jobs in the Rust Belt. He also criticized the press for questioning him after he said Saturday that the president had a “different theology.”

“In many cases, environment regulations that I call extreme has gone extreme, particularly in this administration, what they have done and I referred to it the other day and I got criticized by some of our less than erudite members of the national press corps who have difficulty understanding when you refer to someone’s ideology to the point where they elevate Earth and they say that well that men and humanity is just well … one of a variety of species on the Earth and should be treated no differently,” Santorum said.

The candidate said he was talking about environmental policy at a speech in Columbus on Saturday, not questioning the president’s Christian values.

Steubenville is one of the towns in the region that has struggled to recover from the fading steel industry — it was the home of a now closed mill — but it sits upon two shale formations and with that comes new job opportunities.

Ohio has the second-most delegates of all the states that vote on Super Tuesday, March 6, after Georgia. He told the crowd that he learned what GOP voters want by visiting all 99 counties in Iowa and holding more than 380 town halls in that first voting contest.

He drove a hard message, saying if he wins, Americans will regain “the freedom that your ancestors fought for, died for.”

“If you do that, this guy that in a sweater vest was traipsing around a pickup truck in Iowa about two months ago with nobody paying any attention to us, who has a message that is your message,” Santorum said. “You listen to what’s in the hearts of Americans. You try to reflect that in a vision for our country. You help us here, you sign up, you work hard, you will take that first step in regaining the freedom that your ancestors fought for, died for.”

Santorum planned to spend the rest of Monday campaigning in Michigan ahead of the state’s primary Feb. 28. He is in a fierce battle with Romney there to take that state; despite his rival’s roots there polls show a head to head match up.

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