Santorum stops in Pelham

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum shakes hands with supporters following an event at the Pelham Civic Complex on March 8. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticized President Barack Obama during a March 8 campaign stop at the Pelham Civic Complex, and said “liberty is the biggest issue,” during the upcoming presidential general election.

Santorum’s comments came during a nearly hour-long speech to a group of about 250 supporters who gathered at the Civic Complex.

Santorum’s visit to Pelham was one of three campaign stops he had scheduled in Alabama on March 8. He also spoke in Huntsville at 10 a.m., and spoke in Mobile during a 6 p.m. event. Santorum and Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are vying for a victory in Alabama’s March 13 Republican primary election.

During his speech, Santorum encouraged voters to “elect a conservative” to combat Democratic President Barack Obama, who is running for re-election. Santorum accused “the media” of supporting Romney in an effort to help Obama’s chances at re-election.

“Every time we have elected a moderate (Republican), we have lost,” Santorum said. “Now we know why the media is for (Romney).

“They don’t want him to win. You know who they want to win,” Santorum said, as several in attendance shouted “Obama.”

Santorum accused Obama of “extinguishing the fundamental rights in this country,” and said Americans have been “shackled by their government.”

Santorum said, if elected, he planned to “open up” offshore oil drilling, and said he would cut America’s corporate tax “in half” to a flat rate of 17.5 percent.

“We are losing the battle of manufacturing in this country because we don’t let corporations have a level playing field with the rest of the world,” Santorum said. “We are going to continue to lose jobs unless we do something drastic to level the playing field.”

If elected, Santorum said he plans to repeal the health care reforms passed during Obama’s term, and said the Republican presidential candidate must “contrast” with Obama in the general election.

“The quintessential threat to liberty in America stands Obama care. Obama care is the reason I am in this race,” Santorum said. “We need someone with a record and a vision that can clearly contrast with this president. We need a candidate who can take it to the president no holds barred.”

He accused Gingrich of “supporting federally mandated insurance programs for 20 years,” and said Obama “used Romney’s plan for health care as his blueprint for Obama care.”

“We’ve had enough of a president that doesn’t tell the truth to the American people. We need contrast. Romney is not a contrast,” Santorum said. “If you nominate me in Alabama, a conservative will be nominated by the Republican party.

“If a conservative is elected, I tell you what, we will win the general election,” he added.