Quantcast

Rick Santorum holds town hall aboard USS Yorktown - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Rick Santorum holds town hall aboard USS Yorktown

MOUNT PLEASANT, SC (WCSC/AP) -

Sen. Rick Santorum was back out on Tuesday meeting with voters after Monday night's debate in Myrtle Beach. 

Santorum  held a "Faith, Family and Freedom" national security town hall aboard the USS Yorktown.

During the event, he worked to win over the conservative vote.

"Our deficit debt situation is crippling our nation. The size and scale of government has exploded since the time of Reagan," Santorum told the crow on the USS Yorktown. "Fundamental freedoms are at stake in America if we do not turn back Obamacare and other big government programs. So the stakes are even higher. Why would you settle for less?"

Also on Tuesday, Santorum branded Mitt Romney a liberal, said Newt Gingrich's policy positions have been "all over the place" and laughed that Ron Paul has been running for president "since 1938," looking to capture the GOP presidential nomination even if takes harsh words for fellow Republicans.

Santorum, a long-time footnote in the GOP contest now attracting scrutiny, tried to punch his way to the top of the pack with scathing critiques of his rivals ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary. In campaign speeches and a new TV ad, the former senator from Pennsylvania sharpened his criticism and urged conservatives to coalesce around one of their own or face Romney as the GOP's nominee.

"He's got a lot of money, but he doesn't have the convictions, the authenticity nor the record that is necessary to win this election," Santorum told voters about Romney. "Please consolidate."

At the same time, he sought to cast Gingrich, the former House speaker, as an insufficiently conservative option.

"Speaker Gingrich is not nearly as conservative as I am on most issues," Santorum said.

"Newt is bold, but he is all over the place," he continued. "Attacking capitalism, supporting capitalism. Against global warming, for global warming. We need someone who is bold and consistent."

Santorum, a sometimes acerbic and often sarcastic campaigner, has done little to hide his animosity toward his rivals since he came within eight votes of winning Iowa's caucuses earlier this month. He even took a shot at the 76-year-old Paul, who bested him New Hampshire and has needled him from afar.

"Congressman Paul had been running in New Hampshire for president since 1938," he said.

Conservatives, it seemed, were recognizing their dilemma: Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Gingrich and Santorum all were vying to emerge the leading alternative to Romney. Thus far, however, they have fractured their support and Romney has won both Iowa's and New Hampshire's lead-off contests.

"We conservatives are splitting the vote," Aiken voter Michele Merritt told Santorum. "Is there not anything that those conservatives can do to get together for the good of the country and try to coalesce behind one person that will be able to take on Romney and win? Because I really, really don't want Romney to get the nomination."

Santorum nodded but stopped short of urging anyone to exit from the race.

"I believe everybody has a right to be in this race if they want to be in this race and fight as hard as they want for as long as they want," he later told reporters in Lexington. "I'm not into political games, or political deals."

Santorum finished a close second in Iowa on a shoestring budget. Fundraising took off after that and Santorum was finally in a position to spend some of the $3 million he raised that week.

In an ad scheduled to start airing Wednesday in South Carolina, Santorum likened Romney to President Barack Obama.

"Obama supported the Wall Street bailouts. So did Romney. Obama gave us radical Obamacare that was based on Romneycare," the ad's narrator says. "Obama's a liberal on social issues. Romney once bragged he's even more liberal than Ted Kennedy on social issues."

The ad then asks: "Why would we ever vote for someone who is just like Obama?"

Previewing the criticism, Santorum mocked Romney's position that the health care overhaul he signed into law in Massachusetts was fine but a national version is unacceptable.

"Boy, that's pretty powerful," he sniped.

"South Carolina can't put a candidate up ... who cannot stand up on the most critical issue of the day and draw a contrast," Santorum said of Romney.

Romney's allies, meanwhile, were airing an ad that says Santorum "even voted to let convicted felons vote."

Santorum complained that the TV spot, while referring to "felons," shows someone in an orange prison jumpsuit, suggesting that Santorum would allow them to vote while still incarcerated. Santorum has supported voting rights only for those who have served their sentences and been released.

He called the ad "one of the cheapest shots ever" and said Romney should tell his allies to back off.

"I would never, ever, ever want to be affiliated or associated with anybody doing something for me that I know is blatantly false," Santorum said.

Romney countered that "people who have been released from prison are still called felons if they've committed felonies."

Copyright WCSC/AP 2012. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly