Santorum: Bashing Obama 'isn't going to win' elections

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) chided conservatives for not articulating a positive message, warning that just bashing President Obama won't help them turn out the blue-collar workers he thinks the party needs to win.

"I understand why people come out on this stage and they bang away at President Obama. It's fun, and I get it. It's also easy, getting easier," he said. "But that isn't going to win people who are sitting at home who are hurting."

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Santorum, who is seriously considering another run for president in 2016 after being the runner-up GOP nominee in 2012, framed his speech, like his former campaign, as a populist appeal to blue-collar workers, saying the party needs "to be the 'that's me' party."

"We need to paint a picture for people and we need to use a brush where they see themselves in a painting," he said. "[Democrats] are messing up big-time. We have an opportunity. Let's not talk about them. Let's talk about how we can be great again."

Santorum said the GOP needs to turn its focus from business owners to the less wealthy, criticizing Mitt Romney, his former opponent, for his "you didn't build that" response to President Obama at the 2012 Republican National Convention, criticizing him for focusing only on business owners and not their workers.

"We didn't send one server in a restaurant to go out there on that stage," he said.

"If you're sitting there underemployed, unemployed ... and all we're talking about is cutting taxes for high-income people, it doesn't exactly resonate emotionally," he continued. "They didn't think we cared about them, so they stayed home."

The former senator said he did well in 2012 not because of his positions on cultural issues but because his campaign focused "on those who are working Americans."

Santorum earned tepid applause through his speech, as the libertarian-leaning audience grew more and more dense as he spoke. The crowd swelled not to see Santorum but for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the day's next speaker. What was a half-empty hall grew so full that rows of people stood in the aisles to see Paul.

When Santorum fired back against libertarian philosophy, saying government could do much to help the family in the same way it did to stop smoking, the crowd sat on its hands.