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Rick Santorum speech sticks to economy — mostly

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Joe Raedle GETTY IMAGES Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks Monday during a campaign stop in Livonia, Mich. LIVONIA, Mich. — Rick Santorum largely steered clear of cultural issues Monday morning, instead detailing his economics plan in front of a group of business leaders, while Mitt Romney attacked the former Pennsylvania senator for not focusing enough on jobs.

Asked by a reporter about Romney’s comments, Santorum said: “Tell him to watch my speech.”

Indeed, Santorum delivered a speech at the Livonia/Farmington Chamber of Commerce breakfast that was all about the economy, somewhat a departure for a candidate who frequently appears in church pulpits.

In his nearly hour-long remarks, Santorum talked about his proposals to lowering the tax rate on corporations and zeroing out the tax rate for manufacturing companies. He also talked about his energy plans and raising the Social Security eligibility age to make the entitlement program more solvent.

But even as he addressed jobs and the economy, a focus that has been a part of his stump speech but by no means the most dominant topic, he waded into cultural issues, at times seeming much more passionate in discussing those topics.

“You hear so much about separation of church and state. I’m for separation of church and state. The state has no business telling the church what to do,” he said. “The central issue of church and state that our founders believed in, which is what I just described, has now been turned on its head. And now its the church, people of faith, who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view. Or practice their faith outside of their church.”

Santorum has been losing some traction in Michigan as Romney supporters have run a barrage of negative ads that point to Santorum’s record of voting for increasing the debt ceiling and the Bridge to Nowhere.

The former Massachusetts governor has reprised a strategy he has used in defeating other opponents — getting to the right on fiscal issues and largely ceding cultural issues.

Santorum continues to say that he isn’t focussing on social issues, that in fact, “All the reporters in the back are saying, ‘Oh, there’s Santorum talking about social issues again.’ No, I’m talking about freedom.”

During the question and answer question, Santorum was asked how he would overcome the perception that his “very conservative views make him unelectable in the current political climate.”

Santorum turned the criticism on the media and the left.

“They mock conservatives. That’s what the media does, they mock the values that built this country,” he said. “America is outdated in the eyes of the left . ... I’m going to stand up and provide a voice for a different vision for our country. One that worked. One that transformed the history of the world.”

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