The Washington Post

Santorum presents 100-day vision

Rick Santorum unveiled a 100-day vision for the country Friday night that calls for reviving the economy and restoring U.S. competitiveness while reining in the federal budget and reforming federal entitlement programs.

The Republican presidential candidate returned to Michigan with polls showing that the lead he held over Mitt Romney has disappeared, foreshadowing a fierce few days of campaigning ahead of Tuesday’s crucial primary.

This was Santorum’s first public rally since Wednesday’s debate in Arizona, where he came under attack, particularly from Romney, as he grappled with the demands of suddenly being in the spotlight and in the thick of the contest for the Republican nomination.

Santorum spoke before a relatively small crowd at a Knights of Columbus hall in this blue-collar area southeast of Detroit. He told the audience he would offer 10 ideas for his first 100 days in office. He spoke for nearly an hour, interspersing stories about his days in Congress and other thoughts among the items on his agenda.

He alluded to the attacks he has faced and some of the criticism in the media as he closed out his talk. Americans, he said, are now reacting positively to a vision he has been talking about since his lonely days in Iowa.

Americans are responding to it — not responding to all the garbage,” he said. “They’re responding to a vision about what affects them. That’s what this campaign is going to be about. We’re starting again here tonight, and we will finish this campaign on a high note and a positive vision for America.”

Along the way Santorum took a shot at Romney, without naming him, suggesting he lacked the courage of his convictions.

“I’ve been consistent on principle, unlike other people in this race,” he said, adding a moment later, “I’ve been a conviction conservative who stood for things, unlike some other people in this race.”

Santorum recalled his early days in Congress, saying he came to the House as a rabble-rouser and carried that confrontational style to the Senate.

“We were a bad dude coming into the United States Senate,” he said. “I had a reputation for that.”

He said he planned to keep his head down but described how, as a freshman senator, he took on Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.) after Hatfield decided to oppose a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Santorum tried to strip Hatfield of his chairmanship.

“They just beat me upside the head about as hard as they can in that town,” he said.

His 100-day plan included proposals to spur energy development, to lower corporate and individual tax rates and to give special breaks to manufacturers. He said he would set a goal of limiting federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product, after achieving a balanced budget.

His budget plan also calls for cutting means-tested entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, by 10 percent, freezing the spending for four years and returning them to the states under a block grant. He offered no fresh details for altering Social Security and Medicare but said he would make them fiscally sound.

To spur the housing industry, he said he would develop a plan to get rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and enable homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages to deduct their losses in order to offer them a way out of their financial hole.

Santorum said he wanted to keep the campaign on a positive note and talk about big issues and get away from the “nasty politics” that he said has taken up too much attention.

“This is an inclusive plan,” he said. “It includes everybody in America. Yeah, because I care about the very poor. I care about the guy who’s not doing as well as he could, the gal. . . . I care about everybody. I’m a 100 percenter when it comes to being president, not a 99 versus one.”

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s National Editor, Political Editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.

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