Rick Santorum: Defender of Freedom

Santorum speaks to supporters in Greenville, South Carolina.

CHARLESTOWN, SOUTH CAROLINA—Rick Santorum’s campaign for the Republican nomination relies on stark, apocalyptic rhetoric. Barack Obama isn’t just a Democratic president passing Democratic policies; he’s a dangerous radical who seeks to bend the American people to his will and fundamentally change the country’s “values.”

Indeed, the takeaway from Santorum’s town hall at Daniel Island Elementary School last night, where 500 conservatives gathered to support the former Pennsylvania senator, was that the specter of Obama’s tyranny lurks around every corner.

“He used fear, to everyone who is dependent on the federal government, he pulled the hook, to make them do what he wants,” said Santorum, describing Obama’s direct appeal to votes during the debt ceiling fight, “That’s why Obamacare is so dangerous—it’s an entitlement for every American.”

Likewise, Santorum offered a stark picture of federal spending, where deficits are street signs on the road to serfdom, and freedom requires massive spending cuts to existing social programs. “If we limit government to 18 percent of GDP, we lock your freedom into the Constitution,” he said in describing the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan, “because if the government remains small, you will remain free.”

Judging from the enthusiastic response to these declarations, the audience at Daniel Island Elementary was receptive to Santorum’s attacks on the president. “First of all, I want to tell you thank you. You’re the only candidate I’ve heard who tells the truth, and that is that Obama is doing this on purpose,” said one woman who took to the microphone to ask Santorum a question. Her concern? That Obama was using her taxes to enrich George Soros and his nefarious cabal.

One attendee, Susan Sloate, was just as worried about Obama’s plans for the country. “This is the most important election of our lifetimes,” she said. “Obama has made huge strides in destroying the America we know, and if we don’t win this one, there will be no elections in 2016.” Her friend, Chris, piped in, “I really disagree with you on this. There were elections in the Soviet Union! But, you know, 98 percent of the people voted one way.”

If Mitt Romney’s South Carolina is pragmatic, pro-business, and willing to settle with someone who can win—despite his reputation for moderation—then Rick Santorum’s South Carolina is deeply conservative and looking for someone to save the country. Unfortunately for the former Pennsylvania senator, these voters have never prevailed in the state’s presidential primary, and if Mitt Romney’s continued lead is any indication, this year will repeat the pattern.

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