The latest voice in a crowded GOP presidential field belongs to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Launching his White House bid from the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse, Santorum said America is great because it was founded that way – not because of its government. Santorum chose Somerset, PA for the announcement because his grandfather came there in 1927: “Because he knew that America believed in him, believed in people, gave people a shot. If they worked hard, they could succeed. That’s the America that my grandfather came to… and that’s the America that we need again today.”
Among the hundreds of folks gathered on the courthouse steps, we caught up with staunch supporters, the curious, and everyone in between. “I’m not necessarily a fan, I’m an independent, but he’s a hometown boy,” said Georgia Sheftic of Stoystown, who noted that she was listening closely to Santorum’s message. Dean Mickey only had to walk a few blocks from his home to attend Monday’s announcement in Somerset. “I like what he espouses. He’s pro-life, he’s a conservative, and he’s a family man,” Mickey says. Mickey’s confident that GOP primary voters will come around to Santorum. “He appeals to a lot of people. He might not be middle of the road, but those who believe what I believe are going to come to him without a doubt.”
Santorum reached out to his social conservative base when he criticized President Barack Obama for devaluing not just our currency — but our moral currency too. Amid vigorous applause Santorum said Obama was doing so by not standing up for the Defense of Marriage Act, and through the federal funding of abortions. Santorum spoke passionately about his opposition to the federal health care reform law, which he referred to as ‘Obamacare.’ “Why do you think they worked so hard? Why do you think they were willing to break every rule? Why do you think they were willing to lose this election? Why do you think they ignored the polls, and jammed it down the throats of the American public?” Many in the crowd answered in unison with Santorum, “Power.”
A poll released last week from the Pew Research Center showed that Santorum has a lot of ground to make up – as he currently has only 48% name recognition among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. The former Senator from Pennsylvania will spend the rest of the week in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire as he looks to make up that ground. Meanwhile, Santorum’s not the only GOP presidential candidate with strong Pennsylvania ties: Newt Gingrich was born in Harrisburg, and Ron Paul was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Paul also graduated from Gettysburg College.