Discuss as:

Social issues? Santorum says he's talking about 'freedom'

 

LIVONIA, Mich. -- On the day Mitt Romney criticized him for not focusing enough on the economy, Rick Santorum stressed the need for simplifying the tax code, cutting trillions from the budget and building the Keystone pipeline.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum often splits his time on the stump between focusing on jobs and social issues.

And while the former Pennsylvania laid out his economic plan to a local Chamber of Commerce here, he also pivoted into the social issues that have come to largely define his campaign.

"The separation of church and state that our founders believed in, which is what I just described, has now been turned on its head," he said. "And now, it’s the church, people of faith, who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view, or practice their faith outside of their church."

That was received with applause from the 300 supporters in attendance.

"All reporters in the back, they say, 'Oh there’s Santorum talking about social issues again,'" he said. "No, I’m talking about freedom.
I’m talking about government imposing themselves on your lives."

The balance between talking about the economy -- which will likely be the most important issue in the Novemeber election -- and social issues has been a delicate one for the Santorum campaign. The candidate often splits his time on the stump between focusing on jobs and focusing on the issues of abortion, the family, and religious freedoms. Now, in a state hit particularly hard by the recession, the former Massachusetts governor is trying to exploit it as a weakness in his rival.

Stumping in Rockford, MI, earlier in the morning, Romney said of Santorum, "It's time for him to really focus on the economy."

Responding to Romney's critique, Santorum told reporters, "Tell him to watch my speech."

On the eve of the Michigan and Arizona primaries, the Romney campaign unveiled a new line of attacks against Santorum, building off his "sometimes you take one for the team" defense of earmarking during last week's debate. Santorum did not use his speech to defend his fiscal record in Congress, but instead split time between portraying himself as a consistent conservative and  introducing his plan to rebuild America's manufacturing and energy industries.

"This is a tax plan that isn't conforming to any type of school of economics, because America has its own destiny," Santorum said. "We don't fit into a school. We do our own; we cut our own path; we're Americans; we can do things different, and we can be successful in doing it. Our plan is bold. It doesn't just, you know, take an existing tax code and play around with it in 59 or 69 or 89 different tweaks."

Last year Romney unveiled a 59-point economic plan.

Santorum's first of three stops throughout the Wolverine State compliments an op-ed he in today's Wall Street Journal outlining the major tenants of his plan.

"Capitalism is painful," he said. "We all know markets are painful sometimes. When people dont keep up, when people do things that the market doesn't like, a lot of people suffer. They suffer more if you try to rig the game. I've been consistent on that. I can go after President Obama on that. No one else can in this race can."