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Santorum Insists He’s the Electable Candidate Santorum Insists He’s the Electable Candidate

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CAMPAIGN 2012

Santorum Insists He’s the Electable Candidate

Candidate challenges the assumption that Mitt Romney is best-positioned to beat Obama.

HOLLIS, N.H. -– Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, facing doubts about his general election viability, on Saturday held up his home state’s vaunted swing-state status as proof he could cultivate a conservative record and still appeal to electoral majorities.

Santorum, a former two-term senator, challenged frontrunner Mitt Romney’s own electability and conservative credentials, arguing that Romney had run for office three times, sandwiching in his 2002 Massachusetts governor’s race victory by running as “a liberal.”

 

“All of a sudden I’m the one who has to explain that I’m the electable one. When has any other candidate in this race ever won a Democratic district for Congress? Answer: none of them,” said Santorum, who defeated Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford in 1994. “Has any of them ever won a state as a conservative, as a conservative, that is a swing state? None of them. Gov. Romney ran, but he didn’t run as a conservative, you all know that.”

Romney lost the 1994 U.S. Senate race to Kennedy, beat Democratic state treasurer Shannon O’Brien in the 2006 gubernatorial election, then lost in the 2008 presidential primaries. This cycle, he has positioned himself as the only Republican strong enough to challenge President Obama, an electability argument that polls show voters are buying.

Even as Santorum seeks to make a case for himself as the most electable Republican, he continues to court support from the social conservatives he allied with while in Congress.

 

A senior Santorum aide confirmed that 2000 presidential candidate Gary Bauer, a leader in the social conservative movement, will endorse Santorum on Sunday in South Carolina.

The Washington Post, which initially reported the endorsement, said Bauer -- who chairs the Campaign for Working Families -- concluded that Santorum comes closest to following the conservative principles of former president Ronald Reagan.

Standing on a boulder outside a barn in Hollis, surrounded by hundreds of media and onlookers, while people inside had climbed ladders to fit into the overflow crowd, Santorum apologized for not being able to address both crowds at once, explaining that his voice was “strained” and needed to be ready for Saturday night’s debate.

The debate, followed by another one at 9 a.m. Sunday, comes as polls show Santorum failing to convert his strong second-place finish in Iowa into significant momentum in New Hampshire. In a Suffolk University/7News tracking poll of likely New Hampshire voters, Santorum on Saturday registered 9 percent, good for fourth place.

 

In Hollis, he swatted back questions about whether his strong pro-life stance and past support for earmarks disqualified him as an authentic conservative.

On abortion, he said, “In the case of life, we have another life involved and we’re protecting all innocent human life, and so that is a conservative position.”

On earmarks, he said, “I believe that when the people of New Hampshire, the people of Pennsylvania send money to Washington D.C., that the folks you elect should go there and make sure that that money is allocated back to the states in a way that’s fair.”

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Santorum explained his 17-point loss in 2006, to Democrat Bob Casey as the function of a historically bad year for Republicans, when six GOP Senate incumbents lost their seats and Democrats retook the chamber.

At an earlier event in Amherst, forced outside because of space constraints, Santorum targeted Romney over the 2006 Massachusetts health care law, calling it a “template for ObamaCare.”

"That’s the reality of the candidate we want to put up as a contrast?" he asked. "You need a clear contrast." With what polls are showing in New Hampshire, Santorum said, "We will have a muddled mess … We will not have the clarity we need to defeat an incumbent."

Santorum closed by saying, "Think Reagan. Vote Santorum."

Naureen Khan contributed

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