- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2012

Carrying momentum from his three recent electoral wins, Rick Santorum cast himself Friday as the reliable conservative in the GOP presidential race, arguing that he offers a bolder contrast than rival Mitt Romney on the issues that matter most to conservative and tea party voters.

The former Pennsylvania senator told those gathered here for the Conservative Political Action Conference that while he fought against government-run health care, the “facade man-made global warming” and financial bailouts, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fought for them — positions that, he said, could undercut the excitement the party needs to oust President Obama in the fall.

“On the issue of Obamacare, who has a record of supporting health savings account, tort reform and bottom-up, consumer-driven health care for 20 years? And who has supported in fact the stepchild of Obamacare — the person in Massachusetts who built the largest government-run health care system in the United States,” Mr. Santorum said, alluding to the universal health care law that Mr. Romney signed into law in 2006 as governor of the Bay State.

He also warned the crowd that Mr. Romney supported the 2008 Wall Street bailout and “bought into global warming,” imposing what he called the “first carbon caps in the state of Massachusetts.”

“We are not going to win with money, we are going to win with contrast, we are going to win with ideas and making Barack Obama and his failed policies the issues in this race.”

The comments come three days after Mr. Santorum shook up the political narrative once again by sweeping Tuesday’s nomination contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado — a result that didn’t yield convention delegates, but did feed into lingering doubts about Mr. Romney’s ability to woo conservatives, who question his overall commitment to their causes.

Mr. Santorum said Friday that Mr. Obama’s national health care overhaul is the reason he jumped into the race and he joined the chorus of voices here that have railed against the administration’s controversial mandate that religious institutions pay for their workers’ birth control. Mr. Obama has scheduled an afternoon news briefing to outline a possible compromise in the wake of the political fury.

Mr. Obama “is now telling the Catholic Church that they are forced to pay for things that are against their basic tenets and teaching against their First Amendment right,” he said, arguing that the fight is not about contraception, it is about religious liberty. “It’s about freedom of speech. It’s about freedom of religion. It’s about government controlling your lives and it has got to stop.”

And he pushed back against the notion that Republicans should be focused on wooing moderate voters in the general election.

“Why would an undecided voter vote for the candidate of a party that the party is not excited about? We need conservatives now to rally for a conservative to go into November, to excite the conservative base, to pull with that excitement moderate votes and to defeat Barack Obama in the fall.”