- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2012

TILTON, N.H. — Using the same message that catapulted him to a near-win in Iowa, Rick Santorum told New Hampshire primary voters Thursday to ignore the pundits and decide for themselves who the GOP’s presidential nominee should be, even as he ramped up attacks on front-runner Mitt Romney.

Speaking at a large banquet hall in an old rail yard, Mr. Santorum said New Hampshire has a “special responsibility” to give all the candidates a close look, not defer to analysts who say another candidate is the most electable.

He encouraged voters to get behind someone with a “spine” who offers “core” beliefs and a “bold contrast” to President Obama on issues such as the new federal health care law, which conservatives abhor.

“I’ve never been for government-run health care, never — unlike the other two folks who are running here who have supported individual mandates, who have supported top-down government health care,” he told members of the Queen City Rotary Club in Manchester, alluding to Newt Gingrich, who supported a federal health care mandate, and Mr. Romney, who signed a universal health care system into law as governor of Massachusetts.

“Past performance,” he told the crowd, “is in fact an indicator of future success.”

'TRUST': "I've never been for government-run health care," Rick Santorum told the Queen City Rotary Club on Thursday. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)
‘TRUST’: “I’ve never been for government-run health care,” Rick Santorum told the ... more >

His message, combined with the collapse of other candidates, proved to be magic in Iowa, where his social conservatism played well among caucus-goers. He fell just eight votes shy of Mr. Romney.

Still to be seen is whether he can win over voters in a New England state where independent and self-identified moderate voters play a large role.

Key to that is arguing that he could win the White House — a threshold New Hampshire voters traditionally care about more than Iowa’s caucus-goers.

Mr. Santorum has employed the “trust” message since he landed in Manchester on Wednesday night and continued to rely on it through a jam-packed day of campaigning Thursday, where he addressed the Rotary Club, spoke before a college convention and held a couple of town-hall meetings. The 53-year-old also squeezed in time for lunch at a diner, where he participated in a pair of radio interviews. He was scheduled to cap off the night with an appearance on national television.

“How many pundits were right over the last six months about what was going to happen in this race? None,” Mr. Santorum said during a campaign stop at a nursing home in Brentwood, where he spoke and took questions for about two hours. “I mean, they are worse than weathermen. So don’t trust them; trust yourself.”

New Hampshire is the political backyard of Massachusetts, which gives Mr. Romney built-in advantages.

He also enjoys a sizable lead in state polls, but Mr. Santorum is eating into that.

“Everybody for a while now has thought that Romney was the guy. That he’s electable,” said Donna Wilczek, 51, a self-employed personal trainer from Goffstown. “But now listening to [Mr. Santorum], he is more like one of us. I think he can be electable.”

The Santorum camp is hoping solid performances in New Hampshire and in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary will end concerns about electability and give him a boost heading into Florida and the national contests beyond, where Mr. Romney’s war chest will give him an edge.

Mr. Santorum’s message appears to be resonating. A Washington Times/JZ Analytics Poll released Thursday shows he has risen to 11 percent support among likely New Hampshire primary voters. His campaign also said he raised more than $1 million since the Iowa caucuses.

Story Continues →