Posted at 05:51 PM ET, 02/22/2012

Santorum: Obama ‘trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian values of America’

TUCSON, Ariz. – Rick Santorum on Wednesday showed no signs of backing down from his provocative statements about President Obama and religion, accusing the president of working to undermine the country’s “Judeo-Christian values” through his implementation of health-care reform and other policies.


People wait in line to attend a campaign rally at the Sabbar Shrine Center for Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Tucson, Arizona. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
“Essentially, we are going to have to hold together on some set of moral codes and principles,” Santorum said at the Sabbar Shrine in downtown Tucson, speaking before an enthusiastic tea party crowd of about 500 people ahead of an evening CNN debate.

“And we’re seeing very evidently what the president’s moral codes and principles are about. We see a president who is systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian values of America. We saw it with Obamacare and the implementation of Obamacare, where his values are going to be imposed on a church’s values.”

The criticism of the Obama administration’s policy on religious-affiliated institutions and contraception is not a new one on the GOP presidential trail – Santorum, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House speaker Newt Gingrich alike have struck the theme at campaign events over the past month.

But Santorum’s rhetoric Wednesday was more explosive than that of his rivals, a move that suggests the former senator is not planning on retreating any time soon from his habit of speaking provocatively about religious issues on the stump.

Toward the end of his wide-ranging, hour-long remarks, Santorum – whose forehead was dusted lightly with ashes in observance of Ash Wednesday — issued a ringing defense of his focus on religion, noting that “this is what I know gets everybody in the secular left just bonkers about my campaign; they just go crazy.”

“Keep it going, Rick,” a woman in the crowd said.

Santorum argued that “people who have faith actually are more respectful of folks who have different faith” – a line that was met with loud applause from the mostly older crowd of Tucson tea party supporters.

“It’s the statists who are intolerant,” Santorum said. “They’re the ones who want to impose their values on everybody else.”

The remarks come as polls show Santorum is pulling into a competitive race against Romney in next Tuesday’s Michigan and Arizona primaries, the two big races before Super Tuesday on March 6. A loss by Romney in either – or both – states would be viewed as a major blow to his campaign, particularly in Michigan, Romney’s childhood home state.

“You’re going to have a huge impact,” Santorum told the crowd. “Everybody’s focused in on Super Tuesday. Well, there are a lot of states up on Super Tuesday. But more than anything else, what happens in Michigan and Arizona next week is going to have the biggest impact on Super Tuesday and this election than any two states.”

He criticized Romney several times by name, arguing that his newly-unveiled tax plan amounts to “lowering the tax rates to, well, the tax rate I proposed.”

“Welcome to the party, governor,” Santorum said to applause.

In a jab at Romney’s record, Santorum urged voters to choose the candidate who is authentic and believable, not one who is a “well-oiled weathervane” and a “Johnny-Come-Lately to the conservative cause.”

“Is it the guy reading from the teleprompter, or the guy out here on a high-wire line telling you what’s in his heart and what’s in his gut?” Santorum said of the choice facing voters – a line in keeping with his campaign’s newly-ramped-up emphasis on the notion that Santorum is the most authentic candidate in the race.

In an e-mailed response, Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said: “It’s no surprise that Senator Santorum would try to associate himself with Governor Romney’s conservative, pro-growth plan to cut taxes and grow the economy. But there are crucial differences. First, Governor Romney’s plan will not explode the deficit in the way that Senator Santorum’s will. Second, Senator Santorum takes the exact same approach to tax policy as Barack Obama — he wants government to pick winners and losers. And finally, Mitt Romney has the leadership experience necessary to actually get his pro-growth plan passed into law.”

Santorum was introduced at the tea party event by Jon Justice, a popular conservative radio host, who asked the crowd how many of them had made up their minds about who to support next Tuesday. About half of those in the hall raised their hands.

As he spoke, Santorum – who made a point of noting at the event’s outset, “I don’t do tea party events without taking questions” – displayed an easy rapport with the crowd, joking and at times encouraging audience participation.

“The president yesterday, his people came out and said the reason they didn’t build the Keystone pipeline? It was the Republicans’ fault!” he told the crowd at one point.

“Li-ar!” one woman yelled out in a sing-song voice.

“He lies!” a man said as the crowd laughed.

“I mean, how do you – how do you do that?” Santorum said as the crowd continued laughing. “I mean, how stupid does he think you are? That he can go out and blame everybody for everything bad, except...” He paused.

“Himself,” the crowd responded in unison.

“Is that leadership?” Santorum asked the crowd.

“No!” the audience boomed.

“It’s arrogance,” a woman said.

This post has been updated since it was first published.

By  |  05:51 PM ET, 02/22/2012

Tags:  Election 2012, presidential election, Arizona, Arizona primary

 
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