Santorum looks toward Super Tuesday in Chattanooga

Authored By James Harrison

With Super Tuesday only 10 days away, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum challenged a crowd of Chattanooga voters to work toward ensuring his victory in Tennessee. 

“In the next few days, I’m asking for your help,” Santorum said to an enthusiastic crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered in the sanctuary of Abba’s House in Hixson. “I’m asking you to go out and do the little things . Super Tuesday is going to be a huge, huge day. You can set this country on a course where big things happen after this election.”

Following a pair of Saturday morning campaign stops in Michigan, the former Pennsylvania senator was the keynote speaker for the Chattanooga Tea Party’s third annual Liberty Forum. Santorum ditched his trademark sweater vest for a blazer and jeans combo and delivered a nearly hourlong speech without using notes or a teleprompter.

Harping on the wording of the Constitution, Santorum quickly launched into explaining his belief that American rights, specifically happiness, were endowed by a creator. 

“America is about bigger things, more important things than just wealth, and property, and stuff,” he said. “America’s about things that are in fact moral and eternal . true happiness comes from doing God’s will in your life.”

The remarks drew nearly an entire minute of a standing ovation, the first of several offered to Santorum over the course of his address. Although the candidate never mentioned any of his Republican opponents by name, he clearly attempted to distinguish himself from Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and fellow GOP front-runner.

“We need a candidate who isn’t compromised on every single issue, someone who isn’t going to fall into the games of the left [wing],” Santorum said.

The candidate drew cheers when offering his views on climate change (“phony science”), education (“not every child needs to go to college”) and the mindset of working-class voters (“the rest of the country is not like New York City”). Santorum also name-dropped First Things First, saying he included the Chattanooga nonprofit in his book as an example of an organization championing family values. 

“I hold you up to the country for what you did here,” he said.

When relating his thoughts on the poor, a pair of crowd members shouted in protest from the back of the room and were promptly escorted outside. They likely joined a group of approximately 80 protestors, who gathered on the curb along Hixson Pike to protest Santorum’s visit. 

Joy Day, a Chattanooga resident, joined a dozen other women dressed in yellow to protest the candidate’s views on women’s rights, specifically with regards to contraception and abortion.

“Santorum believes that women are second-class citizens,” Day said. “He thinks that the law should place itself between women and their doctors, that the government should have supremacy over what a doctor says. Women are perfectly capable of making decisions about their own health, and he needs to recognize that.”

Day’s views could not have contrasted more from Kathleen Robinson, a retired, 28-year Navy veteran who recently moved from Seattle, Wash., to Chattanooga. Robinson said she thought people made too big a deal of Santorum’s personal beliefs. 

“I think people get so caught up on these things like women’s rights, these issues on things that I think shouldn’t really be issues,” she said. “I think deeper than those things. I’m thinking about what really goes on in the White House, what the president has to go through and the kinds of decisions that he has to make. I’m a Santorum supporter, and I’m leaning toward Santorum or sticking with Obama. Nobody else.”

Mike Pleasant, a 65-year-old Hixson firefighter, said he was sold on the candidate.

“I appreciate him coming to Chattanooga,” Pleasant said. “Chattanooga is not California, it’s not New York. It’s kind of like the Chevrolet commercial; we’re the heartbeat of America. To hear a candidate with no talking points I disagreed with, I have no other choice but to back him.”

Following his longer-than-expected speech, Santorum was quickly whisked into a private meet-and-greet with local supporters. He did not field any questions from the local media and left the church within minutes to catch a flight back to Michigan. 

Tennessee’s Republican presidential primary is scheduled for March 6.