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Santorum targeting southern Missouri before caucuses

Saturday, March 10, 2012 | 7:02 p.m. CST

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Presidential candidate Rick Santorum swung across conservative southern Missouri on Saturday, seeking to carry the momentum eastward from a big win in the caucuses in neighboring Kansas by linking his chief Republican rivals to the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Speaking from the sparkling clean factory floor of a security and firm alarm manufacturer, Santorum expressed alarm about Obama's approach to Iran's nuclear development, ridiculed Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's jobs plan as too complex and cast both Romney and Newt Gingrich as clones of Obama on health care and environmental issues.

Santorum took to the podium in Springfield just moments after being declared the winner of the Kansas caucuses.

"We've had a very, very good day in our neighboring state of Kansas," Santorum told several hundred people at a rally hosted at Digital Monitoring Products.

Santorum easily carried Missouri's non-binding presidential primary last month, when he was the only Republican candidate to campaign before the election. He pledged Saturday to return to Missouri a couple of times before it begins its lengthy caucus process next week that will culminate with 52 delegates being awarded in April and June.

"Missouri gave us a huge, huge shot in the arm a few weeks back," Santorum said to applause. But "as you know, the job is not done — you make us work twice as hard here in Missouri to get the job done."

Neither Romney nor Gingrich has campaigned in Missouri this year. But Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has tried to mobilize supporters for Missouri's caucuses. He campaigned last month in Kansas City and was speaking at events Saturday in St. Charles and Springfield.

Acknowledging that national job figures have improved recently, Santorum said the economy may not prove to be the biggest issue for voters come November. Instead, he pointed to the potential for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and for Israel to go to war to stop it.

Obama said this past week that he has been working to avert war with Iran during intensive meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Santorum said of Obama: "It's the most import national security issue on his watch, and he has blown it."

Some of Santorum's harshest criticism was targeted at Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, and Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker. Santorum said both had previously supported the key element of Obama's health care law, a requirement for people to have health insurance or face penalties.

"Why would the Republican Party, in the most critical election, on this very issue of government control, nominate either of them, who are uniquely unqualified to make the case to the American public?" Santorum said. "They both were for top-down government-run health care."

Santorum also delivered a sarcastic shot at Romney's 59-point jobs plan outlined while asserting that his own plan to cut corporate and individual income taxes was much simpler.

"A 59-point tax plan: there's a snappy seller for you," Santorum said.

His Springfield rally began with religious fervor, as Pastor David Harris, of Tulsa, Okla., prayed for God's blessings upon the crowd, Santorum and other political candidates. The event marked the campaign debut of Harris' singing daughters, Camille and Haley, whose Santorum-themed song "Game On" has drawn interest on YouTube.

Some in the audience said they were attracted to Santorum because of his Christianity as much, or more so, than any particular policy position.

"I've been praying that God would raise up someone who would have a heart for God and bow their knees before the Lord and seek wisdom in all the decisions," said Darlene Sorensen, 54, of Ava, a home-schooling mother and wife of a Baptist pastor. "Of all the different candidates, I see that more in Santorum than anyone else."


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