Rick Santorum Says Mitt Romney ‘Abandoned Freedom’ as Governor

Mar 19, 2012 3:34pm

DIXON, Ill. – Standing before a statue of a young Ronald Reagan saddled atop a horse, Rick Santorum harkened back to Reagan’s message of freedom as he lambasted Mitt Romney for being a governor who “abandoned freedom.”

“Don’t make it about who can best manage Washington or be the CEO of the economy. We need someone who can talk and strike blows for big things like Reagan did for freedom, for America. Let’s just be brutally honest about it,” Santorum said to applause from the crowd along the riverfront in Reagan’s childhood home. “There’s one candidate in this race who could never make this race about freedom because he simply abandoned freedom when he was governor of Massachusetts and he abandoned it when he promoted “Obamacare” in 2009.

“How can we nominate someone who can’t summon the energy, summon the vision, summon the greatness of our country and elevate the debate to something that is big and important and lasting. You can do that here in Illinois. You can put someone forward who while not the great communicator himself can try in our own way to try to communicate that message that is at the heart of what America is,” Santorum later continued.

Santorum’s comments came at the same time that Romney was delivering a speech on economic freedom at the University of Chicago, a day before the Republican primary in Illinois, where Romney is leading Santorum in the polls.

“Senator Santorum’s false and flailing attacks can’t obscure the fact that he is an economic lightweight who was roundly rejected by own constituents six years ago.  Someone who was part of the problem can’t be part of the solution,” said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson.

Santorum told reporters that Tuesday’s primary will be a “tough” and “tight race” but he is optimistic about his chances in the race, despite his spending in the state being dwarfed by that of the Romney campaign and super PAC supporting the governor.

“We’ve done a pretty amazing job so far and, it’s going to be a tough race, a tight race, they all are,” Santorum said. “If you would have asked me last Tuesday if we’re going to win, I probably would have said no. But I’ve learned not to underestimate the folks out here on how hard they’re working, and, you know, the energy and enthusiasm that builds around a positive message as opposed to one that’s just out there hammering away and being negative. I can’t tell you the number of people who said, I wasn’t – I don’t know whether I was going to be for you or not but after the 10th ‘robocall’ I decided I’m going to be for you because this guy can’t be any good if all he can do is say bad things about you.”

One day after a blowout loss to Romney in Puerto Rico where Santorum spent two days campaigning last week, he tried to turn the loss into an attack on Romney for compromising his beliefs in exchange for delegates.

“We campaign everywhere. We stood up for the truth in Puerto Rico. Mitt Romney pandered,” Santorum said. “He went down there, and you know, while he says he’s for English being the language of America, he goes down there and says Puerto Ricans, 15 percent of whom are fluent in English, can enter the union and not have to speak English. I mean, it’s just, the outrageous.  What this man will do for 20 delegates. Maybe now we know his price.”

Asked about his prospects in his home state of Pennsylvania, despite his not having the endorsement of any statewide official, Santorum laughed as he told reporters “I don’t think a major statewide person has endorsed me anywhere. … I’m not the candidate of endorsement. I’m the candidate of folks out there and the people across this country, and they’re the ones who are rising up, not the establishment.

“It doesn’t worry me at all. We’re going to do very, very well in Pennsylvania.”

Santorum spoke to a crowd of more than 300 people in Dixon, the childhood home of President Reagan. He paid homage to Reagan and Abraham Lincoln in his speech, praising their adherence to the tenets laid out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

As he greeted voters after his speech, a reporter asked what he thought about comments from President Obama last week about the Land of Lincoln’s rubbing off on the Republican candidates while they’re in the state.

“Vice versa,” Santorum said. “How about some conservative politics from the man who says he’s from the Land of Lincoln.”

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