CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. -- Rick Santorum has a message for the people of Wisconsin: This bud's for you.
A steel-town-raised Pennsylvania conservative Catholic, Santorum spent Friday making the case that he's simply the most relatable candidate to the Badger State voters who will head to the polls on Tuesday. That includes bowling jaunts, fish fries, campaign rallies in neighborhood bars, and --- yes -- a shoutout to the occasional "alcoholic beverage."
"The traditions and the culture [were] not that different," he told voters in Eau Claire of his upbringing compared to the lifestyles of Wisconsin voters. "My dad bowled in a bowling league, and we had alcoholic beverages at home!"
"Not that you guys drink and bowl a lot, no offense," he joked at one point, winning giggles and applause.
Santorum's references to the cultural connoisseurship of booze, along with critiques on the finer points of cheese curds and shoutouts to Lambeau Field's charms, come alongside his urging for voters not to "settle" on Mitt Romney, a "CEO-in-chief" candidate who he says can't relate to regular folks.
"We need someone who can talk and relate to folks who are out there batting in this economy feeling like they're swimming alone," he said. "Someone who can relate to them, who maybe doesn't talk about being the CEO of a company and having, you know, jokes about firing people."
Romney, a Mormon, does not drink alcohol.
Santorum later told reporters that his embrace of a cold one or two was simply a description of his upbringing, not an effort to jab at any of his opponents.
"I'm not trying to draw any contrast,” he said after a rally at a Pabst Blue Ribbon sign-festooned tiki bar in Chippewa Falls. "I'm just telling people a little bit about me and my background and you know what I did growing up."
The son of an Italian immigrant, Santorum added that drinking wine with dinner was a cultural habit in his youth, and he hinted that the effects of excessive imbibing were only clear to him later in life.
"Growing up in an Italian family, wine was a food as far as you're concerned. I didn't think of it as anything else until, well, later on and then we won't get into that," he joked.