Santorum urges Michigan voters to 'shock the country'

Rick Santorum unloaded on Mitt Romney at the Americans for Prosperity Forum in Michigan on Saturday, in an aggressive speech that earned him a standing ovation as he urged the crowd to “shock the country” by voting for the “complete conservative.” 

Santorum had vaulted into the lead in national polls and in Michigan, following his surprising three-state caucus sweeps in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri, but has faded after getting hammered at a debate in Arizona on Wednesday over his record as a senator.

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Romney has since overtaken Santorum in most Michigan polls, although the race remains tight.

“You have an opportunity here in Michigan to make this election about big things,” Santorum said. “You have an opportunity here in Michigan to shock the country.”

In urging voters to upending conventional wisdom, Santorum raised the stakes for Romney in a state where a Romney once served as governor. Santorum made clear that if Romney were to lose in Michigan, where Romney lived until he was 18, it would kill his “electability” argument and signal to the base that it’s safe vote for a conservative alternative.


“Every time we’ve run a moderate, we’ve lost. Every time we’ve run a conservative, a complete conservative … we’ve won,” Santorum said. “We won the 2010 elections because our people were excited about our candidates … not because we compromised.”

Santorum went hard after Romney on his healthcare initiative in Massachusetts, which many say was the model for the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, and for his position that the Wall Street bailout was necessary, but that the auto industry should have gone through a structured bankruptcy.

“How can you bail out one and not the other? Why do you pick one and not the other?” Santorum asked. “You can criticize me for not supporting the Detroit bailout, I didn’t support any bailout, I don’t support bailouts in my own community.”

Santorum argued that a Romney nomination would forfeit for Republicans what should be the primary focus of the 2012 election – the role of government in the lives of citizens.

“We give up the issues of bailouts, of healthcare, of cap and trade,” Santorum said. "Why would we do that? Why would we nominate someone who is uniquely unqualified to take on the big issue of today?”

Santorum earned a standing ovation from the crowd, which was a much needed boost as he seemed to be drifting in advance of Tuesday’s primary.

Romney will need to match Santorum when he speaks at the same forum later today.

Rather than capitalizing on his performance at the Arizona debate, Romney seemed to step on his own momentum, delivering a speech at the nearly empty Ford Field on Friday that fell flat and included a couple of awkward moments that could provide ammunition to his rivals.