Santorum in South Carolina cites the Bible, ignores Obama birther remark

BOILING SPRINGS, S.C. — Rick Santorum thumped the Bible hard in South Carolina’s religious epicenter Friday evening, telling a rowdy crowd that the United States is a Christian nation. He also ignored comments questioning President Obama’s citizenship.

Santorum, hoarse and with an edge to his voice not heard in Iowa as he struggles to stay relevant for tomorrow’s South Carolina primary, said that the concept of equality came from religion and God.

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“Not any creator, but the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,” he said, invoking the Judeo-Christian tradition. “Where do you think this concept of equality comes from? It doesn’t come from Islam. It doesn’t come from the East.”

The former Pennsylvania senator is hovering slightly above 10 percent in most recent polls, badly trailing front-runners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. He asked the voters at the packed restaurant, “Let the people know that you can pull the biggest upset in the history of South Carolina tomorrow.”

Upstate South Carolina, by far the most conservative part of the state, was a stronghold for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) four years ago. If Santorum does well there, it could be at the expense of Newt Gingrich, who many voters in the restaurant said they respected but had personal issues with.

“I like him as a debater, I liked his ideas,” one undecided voter said about Gingrich before pausing. “But the more I see of him the less I like of him as a person.”

During a rowdy question-and-answer session, Santorum was interrupted as he addressed a question on national security.

“This president continually undermines the national security interests of our country, undermines the economic interests of this country. Why?” he asked rhetorically.

“Because he wasn’t born here!” yelled one man from the back of the room. The audience laughed and applauded.

Santorum paused briefly, then moved on with his answer. A few minutes later, as Santorum laid into Obama once again, another man yelled, “He hates America!” The crowd cheered. Santorum once again ignored the remark.

A few minutes later, a man asked Santorum what he would do about the “illegal aliens that are invading this country.” Santorum praised legal immigration and said that the border needed to be controlled strictly. The man then interrupted. “What about the diseases that we’d taken care of that are coming back over the border from the south?” he asked.

“That’s a whole separate issue. Let me take on the issue of illegal immigration,” Santorum responded.

Santorum discussed energy policy and the economy but stressed the role of family in the economy. “Faith plus family equals freedom in America. It is really true,” he said at one point, and said the best way for people to avoid poverty is to marry.

He also sounded an populist note while talking about bringing back manufacturing jobs and argued that to win Rust Belt states, the GOP needed to focus more on blue-collar voters.

“We better be a party that not only shares the values of the people on Sunday but shares their values when they go to work on Monday,” he said.

Santorum framed his concentration on manufacturing as a way to revitalize the heartland and protect America’s morality, arguing that manufacturers would “come to small-town America” rather than urban centers because “they have the work ethic that makes sense and they have the values."

“You want to build small-town and rural America? You’ve got to build the manufacturing base. And if we don’t, there are consequences,” he said, adding that the lack of rural and small-town jobs was forcing people to the cities, where “they get surrounded by a very different culture than the culture here in upstate [South Carolina], a very different America, a very different set of values. And while they may maintain their values, the children who get raised in those communities probably won’t. You want to restore America’s traditional values? You better get small-town and rural America growing again, or the values that made this country are not going to last long.”