Santorum touts blue-collar upbringing

Rick Santorum, who has surged in Iowa thanks to support from evangelical, socially conservative voters, touted his blue-collar upbringing on Monday, telling The Hill that his early years in the coal region near Pittsburgh influenced his views and helped him connect with voters.

Iowa voters are looking for someone who has a plan that will help all Americans rise in this economy, and that’s what we’ve talked about and will continue to talk about,” Santorum said.

“The values I grew up with and the kids I grew up with certainly had an impact on me and how I view the world.” 

ADVERTISEMENT
When asked whether GOP rival Mitt Romney has the same grasp of the middle class, Santorum paused before saying, “You’ll have to ask Gov. Romney.”

Much of Santorum’s newfound support has come from the large number of social conservatives in the state, and he made an appeal to them at a campaign stop Monday in the Des Moines suburb of Altoona.

Santorum, who has been met by overflow crowds since his late surge in Iowa, delivered two speeches at a packed Pizza Ranch chain restaurant to accommodate the large audience of voters.

During his second speech, Santorum stressed that taxes, the economy and growth are important to him and that he “talks a lot about those things,” on the trail, but quickly pivoted to a values argument. “It’s also about what is at the core of our country, the values of this country,” he said. “It’s about faith and family. You can’t have a strong economy, you can’t have limited government if the family is breaking down and we don’t live good, moral and decent lives.”

The former Pennsylvania senator has closed fast on Romney and Ron Paul in the polls, and indicated Monday that he believes he has a real shot at winning Tuesday’s caucus.

Santorum has hit more than 35 Pizza Ranches during the approximately 100 days he’s spent in the Hawkeye State this past year, far more than any other candidate, and has visited each of the state’s 99 counties.

“We didn’t speed-date through Iowa,” he joked during his speech.

“In a caucus, energy and enthusiasm mean a lot, and if that’s the case we’re going to do very well tomorrow,” Santorum told a swarm of reporters after the speech.

Many in the crowd told The Hill that they had previously supported other candidates — Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann — but were giving Santorum another look because they’d grown dissatisfied with their first choice or no longer believed he or she could win.

Afterwards, most of those people said they’d been swayed by Santorum, who delivered a speech in a packed side room of about 100 voters and reporters then gave a second speech while standing on a chair over the pizza buffet.

The crowd was swollen a bit by the Duggar family, stars of the TLC reality show “19 Kids and Counting.” The family, who were also strong backers of Mike Huckabee, drove from their Arkansas home to try to help Santorum in the closing days of the campaign.

“We have 12 of our 19 children here, and the boys spent all night New Year’s Eve on their own and decided to letter up our bus ‘Rick Santorum for president,’” Bob Duggar told The Hill earlier in the day in Boone. “And after church yesterday we hopped on the bus and started heading up to Iowa, got here about 1 a.m., got a little bit of rest. We just started to hit the campaign stops and trying to help people understand that he’s the one that we all need to get behind. That families, Christians throughout America need to support this man.”