Rick Santorum touts conservative pedigree

Video: Rick Santorum addresses the Conservative Political Action Convention on Friday. (Feb. 10)

Former senator Rick Santorum got a standing, cheering reception from an annual gathering of conservatives Friday morning when he said that the 2012 presidential race could only be won by a pure conservative.

Meaning, of course, him.

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Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann poked fun at her errors on the campaign trail at CPAC on Thursday. (Feb. 9)

Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann poked fun at her errors on the campaign trail at CPAC on Thursday. (Feb. 9)

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“Conservatism did not fail our country. Conservatives failed conservatism,” the former Pennsylvania senator said, seeming to mean the 2008 elections. “I think we have learned our lesson. And the lesson is that we will no longer abandon and apologize for the principles that made this country great — for a hollow victory in November.”

The target of that message seemed to be mainly former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who will make his own speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference this afternoon. Santorum didn’t even say Romney’s name — although the man who introduced him did, drawing laughs and cheers with a joke at Romney’s expense.

“A conservative, a liberal and a moderate walked into a bar,” said Foster Friess, a businessman who is the the major funder of a pro-Santorum SuperPac. “The bartender says, ‘Hi, Mitt!’ ” That drew both cheers and boos from a huge ballroom, filled to overflowing, at the Marriott Wardman Park hotel.

In his speech, Santorum drew parallels between his record and Romney’s, highlighting what he said was evidence that Romney had wandered from conservative orthodoxy. Santorum talked about health care, and criticized Romney’s support of a Massachusetts system that he called a “stepchild” to President Obama’s plan.

Santorum also blasted Romney for believing in what Santorum called, “this politicization of science called man-made global warming.” Santorum seemed to dismiss the entire idea of man-made climate change as a political ruse, designed to permit more government control over energy and transportation.

“They scare you to intimidate you to trust them and give them more power,” Santorum said.

The vast majority of the world’s climate scientists, however, remain convinced that climate change is real, that man’s activities contribute to it and that it could become a serious global problem in the coming decades.

Santorum also criticized Obama for policies that required religiously affiliated employers to offer health insurance that covers contraception. The Obama administration announced a change to that policy Friday, designed to quell this kind of criticism.

Santorum said that that kind of policy signalled that the White House would use health care to impose its values on everyday Americans.

“Government will own you,” Santorum said. “Because you will have to pay tribute to Washington to get the care you need for your children.”

Santorum concluded by saying that the battle against Obama would not be won by money — another shot at Romney, the best-funded candidate in the GOP race.

“It’s going to take ideas. Vision. Contrast. A record of accomplishment, that can go up against the failed policies of Barack Obama,” he said. “Who has that strong record?”

YOU! voices in the crowd yelled. “I guess I can quit now, ‘cause you’re all convinced of that,” Santorum said.

Even before Santorum took the stage, there had been evidence of the Romney campaign’s broad ability to rebut him, however.

Santorum had raised some eyebrows by saying women should not be in combat because of the “the types of emotions involved.” Now, Santorum said, he is also concerned about “physical strength and capability” of women in combat situations.

First, on those “emotions,” Santorum says he was not talking about the emotions of women.

“I was talking about men’s emotional issues, not women,” Santorum told ABC News. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”

Santorum said he believes that the men serving with women would put the protection of women in their unit above the overall mission.

“So my concern is being in combat in that situation instead of being focused on the mission, they may be more concerned with protecting someone who may be in a vulnerable position, a woman in a vulnerable position,” Santorum said.

In response to Santorum’s comments, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R), a Romney supporter, told a story about his daughter Jeanine, formerly an Army platoon leader in Iraq.

McDonnell said that his daughter had called home several times to talk about taking small-arms fire. “Yes, I did get a little bit emotional” in those calls, McDonnell said. “But she didn’t. And she got the job done.”

 
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