(Osage Beach, MO) -- Rick Santorum doesn't simply
want to repeat last month's Missouri primary success; he wants to win
"We need to win big and
decisively," Santorum said in a 'Rally for Rick' in OsageBeach Friday. "We need to show that
that big win a month ago has not dissipated the energy and the
That was Santorum's message to a
crowd of several hundred supporters less than 24 hours before most Missouri counties are set to begin caucusing
to choose their party's presidential nominee.
In an unusual year for Missouri electoral politics, Santorum has
already won the Show-Me State -- it just didn't count. Political infighting
between the Republican National Committee and Missouri state senators resulted in the
state having two separate contests this year. But Saturday's caucus is the one
that will actually award delegates and have an impact on who wins the
Santorum handily beat rival GOP
candidates Mitt Romney and Ron Paul with 55.2 percent of the vote, winning ever
single Missouri county. It was part of a trio of wins along with victories
in Colorado and Minnesota that helped propel the former Pennsylvania senator ahead of Newt Gingrich,
positioning Santorum as the biggest challenger to Romney, who leads in the
overall delegate count. Newt Gingrich does not appear on the Missouri ballot.
Santorum's popularity in Missouri, as it has been throughout other
parts of the country, has come from more rural parts of the state. Religious,
conservative voters have flocked to Santorum as they continue to question
Romney's credentials as a conservative.
Santorum's hour-long stump speech
Friday swung back and forth between attacks against Romney and President Barack
Obama. Santorum said Romney's history of changing his stance on abortion rights
and instituting a statewide healthcare system as governor of Massachusetts would make it hard to take him
seriously as a conservative alternative to the current president.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we don't
need somebody who had convenient conversions experiences on a whole host of
issues," Santorum said of Romney.
Happily taking up his charge as a
conservative culture warrior, Santorum also pointed out that in primary races
so far, most of Romney's support has come from the urban and suburban areas
that tend to vote Democratic in the general election. A reference to the
politics of New York and Los Angeles drew boos from the crowd.
Santorum linked his candidacy to the
successes of the Tea Party movement and the Republican victories in the 2010
Midterm elections. And many of his supporters happily identify or sympathize
with the Tea Party positions.
"I'm looking for change for our
country, someone who really believes in our country and what our founding
father's brought," said Steve Smith, a Santorum supporter from Jefferson City who came to see the candidate
speak. "The more you study our constitution, the more you see our
background, the you more realize how far off we've come away."
Although Santorum hopes to expand on
last month's win, some Missouri GOP strategists think that's unlikely. James
Harris, a GOP strategist from Jefferson City, said he expects Santorum to
ultimately win the state but that Paul and Romney may make up some ground.
"I think you'll see a strong
showing from the conservative base of the party who clearly Rick Santorum
appeals too," Harris said. "But I think by the nature of the caucus
system you'll see Ron Paul and Mitt Romney make up some ground and finish better
than they did last month."
Santorum will go to Illinois for two appearances Friday evening.
But he is back across the state line in Missouri again Saturday, as Republicans
participate in the caucus system.
He will be
in Chesterfield and nearby Wildwood, Missouri for two "meet and greet"
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