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Santorum talks immigration, faith in Tucson stop

Says he's 'best chance' to beat Obama

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum fed right-wing red meat to a roomful of red-shirted Tea Partiers in Tucson on Wednesday.

Santorum, gaining on Mitt Romney if not leading him in polls of Arizona Republicans, made a midday campaign stop here before heading to Phoenix for a televised debate set for Wednesday night.

About 450 GOP faithful, many wearing the iconic red of the Tea Party, crowded into the Sabbar Shrine Temple, 450 S. Tucson Blvd., to hear Santorum and a parade of congressional hopefuls pitch their cases.

Nationally known as much for his Google problem as for his policy proposals, Santorum said his candidacy provides the "best chance" to beat President Barack Obama in November. Santorum lost his U.S. Senate seat to Bob Casey by 18 points in the 2006 election.

"We don't need Pyrrhic victories," he said. "We need a victory that actually is going to have consequences."

The conservative candidate had surprising wins in the Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado caucuses, but has trailed Mitt Romney in the race for the GOP nomination until recent polls showed the pair running neck-and-neck.

"Look at the record versus the rhetoric," he said, inviting conservatives to compare him with Romney, referencing him as one of the "Johnny-come-latelies to the conservative cause."

Speaking for just under an hour, Santorum referenced his positions on the economy, immigration and foreign policy.

While saying "I believe in immigration," Santorum said that he favors strict laws that might divide families with mixed immigration status.

Speaking of his grandfather's immigration experience, he said "I understand the heartache of some people that say, 'What happens if you send some people back, they're gonna be separated from their family.'"

"That's right. America's worth it, to do it the right way," Santorum said, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.

Santorum assailed Obama's foreign policy.

"Our president refuses to call evil 'evil,'" he said Obama "tries to appease and cajole... those who are actively doing harm to American."

Santorum accused Obama of helping "the Muslim Brotherhood overthrow our ally in Egypt" during last year's Arab Spring that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

He also contrasted the U.S. support, via airstrikes, of the rebels who "overthrew a feckless old dictator in Libya who was no threat to the United States" with Obama's cautious strategy in Syria.

Obama "will sit on the sidelines forever," he said.

"And still no support" for the Syrian rebels, he said.

"Of course, there is no bigger issue of national security than securing the southern border," he said.

Santorum said he would build walls along the border. He talked about the U.S.-Mexico border being 42 percent secure, a mocking reference to a 2011 Government Accountability Office report that found that 44 percent of the border is under "operational control."

"How can you be 42 percent secure? You're either secure or you're not," he said. "I don't know about you, but if you built a fence around 42 percent of the perimeter of your house, would you feel secure?"

In 2006, Congress defined "operational control" as halting "all unlawful entries," not the construction of a border fence.

Santorum said faith is one of the nation's foundations.

"'Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people and is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other,'" he said, quoting President John Adams.

"Doing God's will in your life, that's what true happiness is about," he said.

"This is what I know gets everybody in the secular left just bonkers about my campaign. They just go crazy, because I say that America is at its heart a moral enterprise," he said.

Obama is "systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian principles in this country," he said.

"You saw it with Obamacare... where his values are going to be imposed on a church's values," he said.

Santorum credited the Tea Party with Republican successes in 2010, and said Arizona's Feb. 28 presidential primary will have an important impact on the 10 Super Tuesday primaries March 6.

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

4
1357 comments
Feb 23, 2012, 12:23 pm
-0 +4

I didn’t have any yay or nay about Santorum before last night, but when I heard he got all churchy on us that really turned me off. I need a president that I can trust to make religion-neutral decisions, and Santorum pretty much showed he can’t be trusted to do that.

3
30 comments
Feb 23, 2012, 7:35 am
-0 +5

WORD. There is a supposed separation of church and state in this country, apparently Santorum didn’t get the memo.  There isn’t any room for private religious views in politics or pubic government. To attempt to legislate morality is futile, as “morality” is contingent upon culture and individual beliefs.  Santorum’s speech left me feeling like if you aren’t Judeo-Christian, you aren’t a true American.  It’s 2012… can’t America can be “moral” without all the religious mumbo jumbo tied in?!  Santorum’s visit to Tucson has officially cramped my style.@buddhaboy

2
227 comments
Feb 22, 2012, 9:47 pm
-0 +6

victory at all costs would better stick to Holder Obama Soros and Media Matters. Santorum will see no victories of any kind. Dont worry about other peoples faith Rick. Dat aint any uv your bidness.

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Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.com

Santorum speaks to about 450 Republicans on Wednesday.

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