Politics

Santorum attacks Obama for waiving welfare work requirement

Santorum attacks Obama for waiving welfare work requirement

TAMPA, Fla. — Tuesday night, it was hard to believe that a few short months ago, Rick Santorum was Mitt Romney’s bitterest foe for the Republican presidential nomination. In addressing a cheering crowd at the Republican National Convention as well as a primetime national television audience, the former Pennsylvania senator clearly demonstrated that the nomination battle is in the past and he is totally committed to the election of onetime rival Romney over Barack Obama.

In embracing Romney, Santorum laid the lash of his convention address on Barack Obama’s undermining of “tough love” welfare reform — a measure Santorum himself helped write while in Congress, he emphasized. By waiving the work requirement In “workfare,” he said, Obama is “acting as if he’s above the law.” He also invoked his immigrant family’s blue-collar background (“I’m a first generation American”) and brought to life his beloved coal-miner grandfather whose only value he brought to America “was freedom.”

Contrasting his grandfather’s values with Obama’s, he spoke of hard work and called for putting America back to work — principles that were staples of his campaign against Romney and which he is now sure to deploy in the fall race against Obama.

“If America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage today,” declared Santorum, touching on his signature theme of the family. His loudest ovation came when he said: “I thank God America still has one party that believes in the right to life.”

In contrast to other erstwhile Romney rivals such as Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich, Santorum was given a speaking role at the convention. Given that slot and the “red meat” nature of his remarks, the Pennsylvanian is likely to be deployed as a top campaign surrogate for Romney in the weeks ahead.

Before the Pennsylvanian’s remarks, longtime Santorum strategist John Brabender told reporters that “(Santorum) contrasts what he believes this country was built on, versus Barack Obama and how the two seemed diametrically opposed.” Brabender also said that Santorum wrote 90 percent of the speech himself.

But it was less important what Santorum said in his 14-minute convention address than what he is doing to rally conservative support for his former rival. Wednesday, he will host a “Patriots for Romney-Ryan 2012” reception in Tampa that will include a “Who’s Who” of high-profile conservatives who were formerly skeptical of Romney: among them Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, veteran conservative activist Richard Viguerie, Phyllis Schlafly of the Eagle Forum, and the Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed.

“Rick Santorum is the spiritual leader for Republicans,” said Shawn Steel, Republican National Committeeman from California and a conservative activist since he was a Teenage Republican for Barry Goldwater in 1964. “His speech tonight underscores the importance of family issues, and protecting welfare reform is a crucial family value.”

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