www.baltimoresun.com/news/kcpq-santorum-tells-spokane-send-a-message-to-the-gops-good-old-boys-20120301,0,317493.story

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Santorum tells Spokane: Send a message to the GOP's 'good old boys'

Mitchell Landsberg

Los Angeles Times

11:21 PM EST, March 1, 2012

SPOKANE

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Hoping to trip up Mitt Romney's momentum, Rick Santorum made a populist plea to Washington state voters to "put your honor at stake" and give him a victory in Saturday's caucuses that will send a message to the "good old boys" of the Republican establishment.

"How often has the state of Washington had the ability to reset a presidential race?" he asked in a speech to several hundred supporters at a Pentecostal church in Spokane. "I know you feel like you've been railroaded and bulldozed. Well, now you have a chance to speak to the country."

He dismissed Romney's victories in Arizona and Michigan, calling them "states that were, let's just say, tailor-made for a certain candidate in this race."

Santorum repeatedly drew a contrast between himself and Romney, never mentioning the other Republican hopefuls, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. He framed his argument around who has the best chance of beating President Obama in November. Republicans erred in nominating moderate candidates such as Sens. Robert Dole and John McCain in past elections, he said. Voters are looking for someone who presents a sharp contrast.

"Governor Romney's a good man, but his vision is timid, it's inside baseball," he said. "I know I get in trouble for using tough words and tough language, but you know what? Sometimes we need a fighter to go out and fight for what's right for the American people."

He scoffed at the idea that the GOP could beat Obama "because we have a manager" -- Romney -- who is "just a slightly better version" of the president.

"How did I win elections?" he asked. "Not because people agreed with me. They didn't agree with me on everything. But here's what they agreed with, that I actually said what I believed, and that I actually did what I said I would do."

As he usually does, Santorum put health care at the center of his argument, saying that the Obama administration's health care plan was inimical to the values of the nation.

"Once they have that, game over in America," he said. "We [will] have not just those on the margins of society depending on government, but now every single man, woman and child in America will be dependent on the government for your health. And unless you pay tribute to that government, your health care will be in jeopardy."

The speech drew an enthusiastic response from the crowd of several hundred, many of them waving Santorum signs. Mark Bell, 59, who will be a precinct captain in Saturday's caucuses, said the speech was "just what we needed."

"Rick speaks for a lot of us who are conservative, who are worried about the national debt, who are worried about turning around the country that is going down a liberal path, a nanny-state path." He said he would support whoever was the ultimate Republican nominee, "but Rick is the one who is the strongest. I just feel that he knows what's going on and is the right man for the job."