Rick Santorum, a national social conservative leader, said Satuday afternoon in Carroll that conservatives can trust Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Rick Santorum, a national social conservative leader, said Satuday afternoon in Carroll that conservatives can trust Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Daily Times Herald photo by Douglas Burns
Monday, November 5, 2012

Rick Santorum, the popular social conservative who carried Carroll County in the January Iowa presidential caucuses, Saturday vouched for the credentials of Oval Office candidate Mitt Romney on passion issues for the American right.

Santorum, a former Republican presidential candidate and U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, joined conservative Republican governors Sam Brownback of Kansas and Phil Bryant of Mississippi at the Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery. Speaking to about 50 people in the mid-afternoon the trio made a late-game push for the candidacy of Mitt Romney — whom Santorum fiercely opposed in the caucuses, and at one point said was “the worst Republican in the country” to challenge President Barack Obama on federal health-care reform.

In an interview with The Daily Times Herald following the event, Santorum sought to assure his supporters here that Romney is a reliable conservative.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Governor Romney represents the values of the founding principles of our country,” Santorum said. “I have no doubt about that whatsoever and that his ideas of God-given rights and limited government and respect for the dignity of all human life are consonant with mine and Barack Obama’s are 180 degrees the other way.”

Is Santorum supporting Romney because he trusts him to carry the conservative cause to the White House or is the Pennsylvania politician campaigning for Romney because he’s preferable to Obama?

“Yes,” Santorum said.

Which one?

“Well both,” Santorum said. “He’s certainly better than Barack Obama, and I don’t think there’s any question that on the issues that are the most important in this race he has conservative positions and he will govern as a conservative.”

Santorum said he lines up with Romney on key social issues.

“His positions are virtually identical to mine,” Santorum said. “He has a couple of exceptions that I don’t with respect to the life issue, but other than that, they are small exceptions.”

Romney, who describes himself as anti-abortion, would allow for legal abortions in the cases of rape, incest and where the mother’s life is in danger as a result of pregnancy.

During the caucus and primary season, Santorum said Romney was the “worst Republican in the country” for a  “run against Barack Obama on the issue of health care, because he fashioned the blueprint. I’ve been saying it in every speech.” CBS News and other media reported the comments.

On Saturday, in the interview outside the winery, Santorum said those comments were not at odds with what he called his current “passionate” support of Romney.

“I would say that he’s been pretty clear that he’s going to repeal Obamacare,” Santorum said. “And while he hasn’t talked about it or focused on it maybe as much as I maybe would have done, he’s been very clear about what he would do and that this is in fact a referendum on Obamacare. One is going to repeal it. And the other one isn’t.”

Brownback trained his rhetorical fire on health-care reform as well.

“You’ve got one shot at repealing Obamacare. That’s next Tuesday,” Brownback said.

Santorum, a Roman Catholic, said that on issues related to his church Obama has been weak.

“For the first time in the history of this country we have a president who is telling Catholics, but more generally people of faith, that the government’s idea as to what the church’s teachings (are) trump what the church teaches, that they can force people to do things that are specifically against their religious tenants and teachings because they believe sexual freedom is a higher liberty than religious freedom,” Santorum said.

In remarks to the crowd, Santorum criticized Obama’s pro-choice position and support of same-sex marriage. The president, Santorum said, is seeking to move the nation from one based on “God-given rights” to “government-given rights.”

“That is a fundamental different vision,” Santorum said. “It  is a European vision, not an American vision of freedom.”

Santorum told Carroll voters that nothing short of their personal honor is on the line in the general election.

“You do not want to be the generation of Americans who has to look at their children or grandchildren 10 years from now and explain why America was lost under your watch,” he said.

The president and Romney simply see the world different, the former senator said.

“You have on one side a president who wants to transform American into something different than what it has been,” Santorum said.

Santorum added, “Four years ago, he hid that from the people of Iowa. He sort of hid the ball as to what was going on.”

Near the end of his speech Santorum predicted Romney would carry Carroll County on Tuesday.

“Make sure that not just Carroll County goes for Mitt Romney, which it will, but it goes loudly, strongly, overwhelmingly,” Santorum said.

Bryant, the Mississippi governor, ridiculed Obama’s campaign slogan “forward.”

“Forward into what? Failure?” Bryant said. “No, we’re not going to buy that again.”

Bryant said it is time for the nation to choose a “great American leader” in Romney.

“Get out of the way and let Mitt Romney do it,” Bryant said.

After the event the three Republicans sampled wines in the Santa Maria restaurant with co-owner John Guinan providing descriptions of the local product during the impromptu tasting.