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Santorum: Back Todd Akin in Missouri, despite abortion flap, if GOP wants to take Senate

BARNESVILLE, Ohio -- Rick Santorum on Saturday said the entire Republican Party should voice its support for Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri -- including the top of the party's presidential ticket.

After holding a rally for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney here in the heart of Ohio's coal country, Santorum told NBC News that an Akin victory is essential for the GOP to regain control of the Senate and repeal President Barack Obama's health care law. The only way for that to happen, Santorum said, is for the GOP establishment to give the embattled Akin its full-fledged support.

"The entire Republican Party should stand up and say, 'You know what? He's our candidate, it's too important for the future of our country not to have a majority of the Senate in this upcoming election," Santorum said when asked if Romney needs to publicly support Akin. "I'm hoping everybody will join in and support the cause."


The former Pennsylvania senator and unsuccessful president candidate joined South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint in announcing their support of Akin on Wednesday.

"I don't know what the Republican establishment -- what their objective is, but if they want to repeal Obamacare, we better hold the Senate. And to hold the Senate, we better win Missouri," Santorum said.

Akin has taken heat from both sides of the aisle after using the term "legitimate rape" and saying women have a biological way of preventing unwanted pregnancies while he gave a now-notorious explanation of his views on abortion.

"My feeling is that we can win the presidency, but if we don't have 51 senators, we're not going to be able to repeal Obamacare," said Santorum.

Romney's former rival has been active campaigning for the presidential candidate in the Buckeye State. It's a primary Santorum nearly won on Super Tuesday, and his support was particularly strong in this part of the state, heavy with blue-collar workers and not far from his home of Pittsburgh.

Despite recent polls showing Romney needing to make up significant ground in Ohio, the former senator remained optimistic about the state turning red. "I'm confident that Mitt Romney will win Ohio, will when the presidency," he said. "People here understand how dangerous this president is."

That danger, Santorum said, stems from the president's energy policy, which he claims makes the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil. It is a message the Romney campaign hopes will resonate in this coal-rich part of the state.  It is here where Republicans go to hammer Obama for waging a "war on coal."

"This is a president that is going to drive this country to economic ruin because of a phony ideology that, you know, somehow or another he has to control the seas rising and falling," Santorum said.

While Santorum has been traveling as a Romney surrogate, he also has been holding events in places like Iowa independent of the presidential race. It has fueled speculation that he could be eyeing another run.

Asked about his political future, Santorum would only say that he will be happy in 2016 to continue his work as a Romney surrogate. "I'll be happy to come back and campaign for Gov. Romney in four years," he said.