Santorum Touts Pennsylvania Roots Before Primary

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa.) -- As he kicked off his three-week push into Pennsylvania before the late April primary, Rick Santorum touted his home state roots Wednesday afternoon, telling a crowd of Keystone State voters that he is a candidate who reflects the values of voters in Pennsylvania.

“I’m asking you to help out a person who has some roots in this neck of the woods, someone whose dad and grandparents were molded in…in the coal mines in the neighboring counties. Someone who lived and grew up in this area, someone who understands the values that makes it such a special place,” Santorum told a crowd gathered outside the Blair County Courthouse.

The primary cycle has so far taken the candidates through the home states of Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, but the contest in Santorum’s homeland carries a heavier price for the Pennsylvania senator, who needs a win on April 24 to stay viable in the race.

From speaking about the first time he shot a deer in Somerset to going to the soda fountain while growing up, Santorum tried to appeal to the crowd by reminding it of his service and record in the state.

“We’re prepared to lead this country and provide a stark contrast on national security, on health care, on energy, on the economy, never voted to raise taxes, you know that. You know me. The biggest rap on me was always...I was too conservative and now you’re going to hear ads about how liberal I am. It’s laughable in the state of Pennsylvania that somehow Rick Santorum is a liberal,” Santorum said.

Reacting to President Obama’s suggestion that people in this area of the country cling to their guns and Bibles, Santorum affirmed that statement, saying, “You’re damn right we do.”

While he hopes to capitalize on his native son status, Santorum also carries the burden of a brutal 2006 defeat in which he lost his Senate seat to Bob Casey, who beat him by 17 points. Despite the reminder of his loss sitting on the minds of Pennsylvanians, Santorum believes the dynamics of the presidential race are on his side.

“We have to win here,” Santorum told reporters outside Bob’s Diner in Carnegie earlier on Wednesday.

“It’s a whole different world this time around. First of all, I’m running for president, not running for the Senate. It’s a whole different environment. I think…the Pennsylvanians have seen the mistakes of what happened when we give control to the hard left in Washington, D.C.,” Santorum later told reporters.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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