TUCSON, AZ -- Rick Santorum called America "a moral enterprise" and accused President Obama of "systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian principles" at a tea party rally here on Wednesday.
Speaking to nearly 200 supporters, the presidential hopeful did not shy away from many of the controversial topics that he has taken criticism for in recent days. The former Pennsylvania senator said the health care law signed by the president in 2010 undermines religious freedom and is an attack on Christianity.
"The greatness of america is we have such diversity, with the proviso -- 'E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one.' Essentially we are going to need to hold together on some set of moral codes and principles," said Santorum. "And we're seeing very evidently what the president's moral codes and principles are about. We see a president who is systematically trying to crush the traditional Judeo-Christian principles in this country."
As he has many times throughout the campaign, Santorum pointed to the recent controversy surrounding a Health and Human Services mandate requiring religious institutions to cover contraception in health care coverage as an example of the president's assault on religion.
"This is what I know gets everybody on the secular left just bonkers about my campaign. They just go crazy, because I say that America is at its heart a moral enterprise," Santorum said.
He also accused the president of resigning America to "evil forces," a nod to recently surfaced reports of a 2008 speech in which Santorum warned against the influence of Satan in America. At a stop Tuesday night in Phoenix, AZ, Santorum held that will defend everything he says. Using the language of good versus evil on Wednesday signaled he had no plans to back down from that rhetoric.
"He's making the world a much more dangerous place as he continues to pull America back and allow those who seek to do harm to freedom, those who seek to oppress -- yes, evil forces around the world," Santorum said.
But, with ashes still visible on his forehead after attending Catholic Mass on the first day of Lent, Santorum did seem to quell fears about the role his deep like held religious convictions might play in governing. "People who have faith are actually more respectful of people with different faiths," he said.
The rally marked Santorum's third campaign stop in Arizona, but it was the first where he addressed immigration at length. He maintained his hard-lined stance against illegal immigration, maintaining that those who are here without having gone through the proper channels should be deported.
Despite a new NBC/Marist poll showing Santorum running well behind chief rival Mitt Romney in this state, he told the crowd that the message their state sends on Feb. 28 will be an important one.
"Everyone’s focused in on Super Tuesday, and there are a lot of states up on Super Tuesday, but more than anything else, what happens in MI and AZ next week is gonna havet he biggest impact on Super Tuesday in this election than any two states," he said.