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Santorum, Ann Romney Tout Coal Mining Grandfathers in Michigan

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Darren McCollester/Getty Images(NOVI, Mich.) -- 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 Thursday evening, it was Santorum and Romney's wife Ann who both spoke of a common family trait: their coal mining 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 in Michigan, 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 in Novi, Mich., 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 coal mines 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 coal miner, 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 Republican 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 -- who have 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.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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