Rick Santorum asks CPAC conservatives to 'honor' their true values
Rick Santorum played down organization and fundraising in his speech Friday at CPAC. Instead, Santorum appealed to CPAC conservatives' principles.
‚ÄúI am asking for your honor. To put your honor on the line. Honor is a term that‚Äôs not used very often in America anymore. But it‚Äôs exactly what‚Äôs at stake,‚ÄĚ the former Pennsylvania¬†senator and GOP presidential candidate said Friday morning.
‚ÄúPlease, walk out of this gathering and choose the candidate that you believe is the right person to lead this country, not just to victory but to the changes that are necessary for that victory to be won, that you can say ‚ÄėI have done my duty and I have kept my honor.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ
The message jibed with Mr. Santorum‚Äôs broader appeal to some 10,000 activists, volunteers, students, and conservative media members assembled at CPAC, the annual conservative confab in northwest Washington, D.C.
Honor, in Santorum‚Äôs case, means a longstanding fidelity to traditional social conservative positions.
‚ÄúLet‚Äôs just take a look at that in the Republican field. Who has the boldest contrast [with President Obama]? Who has the record they can run on?‚ÄĚ Santorum said.
Foster Friess, the mutual-fund millionaire who has poured money into a pro-Santorum "super PAC," said in his introduction of Santorum that nominating a true-blooded conservative is the only way forward for the Republican Party.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm supporting Santorum not only because he has the best chance of winning, but maybe the only chance of winning,‚ÄĚ Mr. Friess said. ‚ÄúWhy don‚Äôt we learn? We cannot continue to support these experienced, wonderful warhorses, these [political] veterans? It didn‚Äôt work with Bob Dole. It didn‚Äôt work with John McCain.‚ÄĚ
Without saying the name of his presidential rival Mitt Romney, Santorum then launched into the second half of his appeal: Concerns about his electability are severely misplaced. Santorum ticked down a list of contrasts he says that he has with the former governor of Massachusetts, including health-care policy, social concerns, and energy.
He even took a shot at Mr. Romney‚Äôs sizable fundraising and organizational advantages.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not going to win this election because the Republican candidate has the most money to beat up their opponent and win the election,‚ÄĚ Santorum said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not going to win this election over a lopsided money advantage ‚Äď we won‚Äôt have one in the fall. President Obama will have more money.... So just think about what it‚Äôs going to take. Ideas. Vision. Contrast. A record of contrast that can go up against the failed policies of Barack Obama,‚ÄĚ Santorum concluded to raucous applause.
This mix of appeals was right in the bull's-eye for his already-committed backers.
‚ÄúWhen you look at Santorum from a pro-life movement [perspective] and see what his history is, he‚Äôs carrying less baggage than anybody else,‚ÄĚ said Tom Jones, a financial services executive from Williamsburg, Va. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs family, he‚Äôs morals, and what more can you ask for?‚ÄĚ
The question for Santorum, however, according to some CPAC attendees, is less about whether Santorum can win the honor of conservative activists and more about convincing them that he‚Äôs got a real shot at winning against Obama.
‚ÄúWhen you close your eyes, can you envision him in the Oval Office?‚ÄĚ said Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, during a morning briefing. ‚ÄúAnd that‚Äôs the gravitas issue, and his remarks will have to go a long way toward creating a comfort level on not only are his values in place but you‚Äôre comfortable that he can be the leader of the free world.‚ÄĚ
Those concerns were echoed by Vladimir Plotkin a junior at Emory University in Atlanta. While one of the numerous Santorum backers had thrust a Santorum sign into his hands, Mr. Plotkin said he was undecided about whom to support.
‚ÄúI agree with [Santorum] completely ‚Äď but I do not believe he is electable,‚ÄĚ Plotkin said.
But could any of the candidates speaking here today change his mind?
‚ÄúThe candidates are not that good,‚ÄĚ he said with a bit of a wince. ‚ÄúIf Santorum convinces me he‚Äôs electable and Romney convinces me I can trust him, then yes, absolutely.‚ÄĚ
Today, however, Santorum struck a balance ‚Äď shaping a vision of an Oval Office contender and reminding his party‚Äôs activists that he is one of their own.
¬†‚ÄúFolks, I‚Äôve been here before. We know each other,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve worked together in the vineyards; we‚Äôve taken on the tough battles that confront this country. I know you and you know me. And that‚Äôs important.‚ÄĚ
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