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Santorum Tells Supporters to ‘Saddle Up Like Reagan Did’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(GETTYSBURG, Pa.) -- Despite suffering a double-digit loss in Illinois to Mitt Romney Tuesday night, Rick Santorum pointed to the delegates he will gain in the night’s primary as being the catalyst to boost his quest for the Republican presidential nomination and told his supporters to “saddle up like [Ronald] Reagan did in the cowboy movies.”

“We had really no expectations of winning Illinois, but we’re going to come away with a lot of delegates, which is going to keep us in the hunt,” Santorum said during an impromptu speech at his primary night event.  Santorum later noted in his official speech that he won the areas of Illinois that “conservatives and Republicans populate” and predicted he would net between 15 and 20 delegates from the night’s primary.

“It wasn’t a tough night, we did very well,” he told reporters after his official primary night speech.  “We picked up a lot of delegates tonight in a very tough state.  One that no one had any expectations for us to win in.  We did what we had to do.  We got the delegates that we could get and you know, we’re feeling good, again, it’s very clear, it’s a two-person race, and now we need to get all the conservatives to line up behind us.”

In a 15-minute speech to a ballroom filled with more than 700 people, Santorum looked ahead to Louisiana, where he heads Wednesday and Friday, as well as Pennsylvania, his home state, where he asked supporters to “saddle up like Reagan did in the cowboy movies” and help him in the next “five weeks for a big win and a big delegate sweep.”

Santorum stressed that he is the lone candidate who can provide the “contrast” to President Obama in the race, while tying Romney to the president for adopting similar healthcare plans.

“There is one candidate in this race who can make that contrast with the current occupant of the White House.  There is someone in this race who has all of that, someone who has the track record of being for you, being for solutions that empower people, being for limited government.  Someone who can fight the biggest issues of the day, whether ‘Romneycare’ or ‘Obamacare,’ they’re interchangeable,” he said.

Santorum said he called Romney before his speech to congratulate him on his win and even joked with the crowd that Romney has decided to incorporate Santorum’s message of freedom into his own speeches.

“I was pleased to hear before I came out that Gov. Romney has adopted that theme in his speech tonight,” he said.  “I am glad we are moving the debate here in the Republican party.”

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