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Santorum supporters tell Occupy protesters at rally: 'Get a job'

Ted S. Warren / AP

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, is lit by utility lights as he speaks at an evening outdoor rally at the Washington State History Museum, Monday.

 

TACOMA, WA -- Rick Santorum's debut campaign stop in the state of Washington on Monday was held at a venue next to what has become a base camp for occupy Wall Street protesters.  And the group made it known that the presidential candidate was on their turf.

Outside the Washington Historical Museum on Monday night, Rick Santorum spent his 45-minute speech yelling over the chants of about one dozen protesters repeating "We are the 99 percent." Despite the interruptions, he paused only once while police confronted some of vocal young people.  By the end of the rally, three arrests were made, according to Tacoma police officials.


“I understand their frustration," Santorum told the crowd. "For three years they haven’t been able to find work, they have a president who doesn’t care about them.”

The protesters energized supporters to rally around the former Pennsylvania senator.  At one point, nearly the entire crowd pointed at the protesters, chanting "Get a job." But Santorum quelled the crowd, using it as an opportunity to dig at President Obama.

"You realize that there is a group in society that is being left behind. There's a group, about one in three Americans don't graduate from high school, and almost all of them, over three quarters of them, will end up in poverty at some point in time in this country," said Santorum. "We've got to provide an opportunity for them, instead of standing here unemployed yelling at somebody, to go out and get a job and work for a living."

The strong social conservative has been followed by protesters throughout his campaign, mostly young people energized by issues like Santorum's opposition to same-sex marriage.  As he greeted the crowd after the event, a young woman threw glitter on Santorum -- a public display of support of the gay rights movement.  It is at least the sixth time on the campaign trail Santorum has found himself on the receiving end of a handful of glitter.  His GOP presidential rivals have also found themselves covered in the shiny party decoration.

Ted S. Warren / AP

A protester shouts to disrupt a speech by Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Monday.

The Santorum campaign feels Washington provides an opportunity to pick up delegates in a state where other candidates will not be spending much time or resources.  The state's caucus occupies a unique space on the calendar -- before Super Tuesday, but after contests in Michigan and Arizona.

"I ask here in Washington State, you have a great caucus coming up, right before the big Super Tuesday. You will be the last voice...you will be that momentum changer heading into those Super Tuesday states," he said. "Your caucus, your voice will speak very loudly about where the race is heading into these big Super Tuesday primaries. Your caucus across this state can have a huge impact on who the Republican nominee will be so I ask each and every one of you to do your duty, to live up to your honor, to come forward and to go to those caucuses on Saturday morning."

From here, Santorum heads to Idaho on Tuesday, and North Dakota and Michigan later in the week.  Michigan is a state where Romney was previously thought to have stronghold.  The former Massachusetts governor won the state where his father served as chief executive in 2008.

But new polls show Santorum surging and in some cases eclipsing the candidate previously thought to be the front-runner.

The Santorum campaign will begin airing two television ads in Michigan tomorrow.