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Santorum Returns to Upstate

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum thanks the state, flames Obama, and tepidly touts Romney in brief address at SCGOP fundraiser.

SPARTANBURG — With the presidential election heating up and the Republican National Convention just around the corner, former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum stopped in Spartanburg on Monday night to rally the troops.

The event was a SCGOP fundraiser, an event hatched by Santorum himself, who wanted to thank Upstate Republicans for their support during his campaign. Santorum spent more time in the state than any other GOP candidate during the primaries, spending a great deal of that time in the Upstate.

Santorum, whose ties to the state are strengthened further by a brother who lives in Hilton Head, and a son who just entered The Citadel, took the occasion to reiterate his gratitude to the state — but also to take aim at President Obama, whom he called "a threat to the Republic."

Accompanied by his daughter, Elizabeth, whom he was driving back to college in Texas, the Pennsylvania Republican reiterated his contention that this upcoming election "is the most important in the history of our country."

"We have a president in office right now that is a threat to the Republic," he said. "Someone who is abusing power. Someone who is taking this country in a direction that is antithetical to the founding principles of America."

"I'm not suggesting the president is un-American; I'm suggesting his policies are un-American," he added.

Santorum blasted Obama for what he called an abuse of power through several recent executive actions, including a temporary amnesty for undocumented aliens, allowing states a waiver from the work requirements for welfare, and the Obama Administration's refusal to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act.

"When a president believes he's above the law, that he can make the laws by  simply giving a speech, the Republic is in jeopardy," Santorum said. "That is abusing power and showing contempt for the Constitution and the laws of this country."

Santorum urged the crowd of nearly 120 to get behind Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan, though he mainly saved his praise of the ticket for Ryan — whose ultra-conservative politics most closely mirror his own. 

As for Romney, whom Santorum on countless occasions during the campaign called "the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama," Santorum's praise was more measured. But the context was clear — Romney would be infinitely better for the country than the sitting president.

On the way back to his car after his brief remarks, Santorum was asked by Patch what has happened to cause him to bury the hatchet with Romney and finally begin campaigning for the man.

Laughing, Santorum said, "Because he's running against Barack Obama. That's it. There are differences between Romney and me, but they pale in comparison to the differences between Romney and Obama."

The recent flap caused by Ryan's anti-Medicare stance has caused what looked like would become a referendum on Obama to instead turn into a real contest between opposing ideas. And far from the Medicare flap being a bad thing, Santorum said it was actually welcome.

"Look at the Ryan record; look at the Obama record," he told Patch. "Having this campaign be about issues is the best thing that could happen to Mitt Romney. Let's talk about Medicare. Let's talk about health reform. Let's talk about Social Security. Let's talk about the deficit and the debt. Those are areas where the president has no answers — and the answers he has  I just don't think will be seen as plausible solutions to the problems we have in this country."

In his campaign, Santorum made repeal of so-called Obamacare his key plank. A great deal of his emnity with Romney stemmed from the fact that the federal Affordable Health Act is closely based on the plan enacted by Romney when he served as Massachusetts governor.

"I made the point that I would be a better person to take on Obama on the issue of Obamacare," Santorum said. "I think you've seen the Romney campaign stumble on the issue of Obamacare and Romneycare, but the bottom line is, Romney says he'll repeal it. And Barack Obama says he'll keep it. That's good enough for me."

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