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Romney Says He Cares About Unemployment Rate — Unlike Santorum

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(PEORIA, Ill.) -- Mitt Romney seized on a remark made by fellow presidential candidate Sen. Rick Santorum Monday to distinguish himself, telling a group of mostly college students on the eve of their professional futures, that unlike his chief GOP rival, he cares about the joblessness in the U.S.

“I am concerned about the people that are out of work,” said Romney, who held a town hall Monday evening at Bradley University. “One of the people who is running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn’t care about the unemployment rate, that does bother me. I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me.”

Earlier Monday at a campaign event in Moline, Ill., Santorum had remarked, “I don’t care what the unemployment rate’s going to be. It doesn’t matter to me. My campaign doesn’t hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates.”

When Romney took questions from the crowd at his event, the first two audience members asked about social issues.

“So you’re all for like, ‘Yay, freedom,’ and all this stuff,” said one female student, `And, yay, like, pursuit of happiness.’ You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

Romney, who had been nodding along with the young woman as she spoke about his pledge for freedom, responded, “You know, you know, let me tell you, no no, look, look let me tell you something. If you’re looking, if you’re looking for free stuff, if you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for? Vote for the other guy, that’s what he’s all about, OK?”

“That’s not, that’s not what I’m about,” said Romney, as the crowd cheered. “You have the choice in this country of doing something which politicians have been promoting for years. Politicians get up and promise you all sorts of free stuff. Alright, and say I’m going to give you more and more stuff, and you won’t have to pay for it. And you know what, we get elected that way in many cases, politicians do, that’s not something I subscribe to. My own view is that we have to tell people the truth, and we’re going to have to demand sacrifice of the American people. The idea of borrowing a trillion dollars more than we take in is not just bad economics, it’s immoral.  I’m not going to do it, and I’m not going to promise what can’t be delivered.”

The second question came from another woman in the audience who said that while her question was not specifically about birth control, she wanted to know where Romney suggests women get care such as HPV vaccines and mammograms, given that he does not support women’s clinics such as Planned Parenthood.

“Well they can go wherever they’d like to go this is a free society,” said Romney, frankly. “But here’s what I’d say -- which is, the federal government should not tax these people to pay for Planned Parenthood. There are a lot of things by the way, there are a lot of things that we have in our society that we may like, or we may not like, but the government shouldn’t be paying for.”

“And the idea of the federal government funding Planned Parenthood? I’m going to say no, we’re going to stop that,” he added.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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