BOWLING GREEN, OH -- Rick Santorum riled up Ohio Republicans in back-to-back Lincoln Day dinner appearances with Newt Gingrich on Saturday, critiquing President Barack Obama for creating an America dependent on government and selling himself as the only conservative competing for the GOP presidential nomination.
“The problem with socialized medicine – socialized anything? It’s a narcotic," Santorum said. "You don’t even know what you’re missing. You don’t even see the dynamism of life, and the economy, because you’ve been given something for nothing, and you’re happy to have it. This is not us. We are different."
The thought gave way to a swipe at Mitt Romney.
"We need someone who can go into this election and draw a clear vision," he continued, "contrast a vision between a president who on every single issue believes in command and control."
While the former Pennsylvania senator has drawn criticism for focusing on social issues ahead of the economy, he did not back down from hitting on issues like religion and family.
At an earlier event, he took a veiled jab at the first lady and her campaign against childhood obesity. "We'll talk about childhood obesity until the cows come home," Santorum said. "But we won't talk about one of the great underlying causes of childhood obesity, which is the instability of the community, the neighborhood and the family."
Here, before a crowd of more than 600, Santorum said, “I love it because the left says, 'equality, equality.' Where does that concept come from? Does it come from Islam? Does it come from other cultures around the world? ... No, it comes it comes from our culture and tradition, from the Judeo-Christian ethic. "
The speech earned Santorum a warm reception and four standing ovations, prompting him to joke, “If a speaker’s smart, when he gets a standing ovation like that, you stop.”
(Stop he didn’t; Santorum continued for another 15 minutes.)
The applause stood in contrast to former House Speaker Gingrich, who was politely received but won little of the enthusiasm the crowd awarded Santorum.
Gingrich reiterated his recent vows to deliver gas at $2.50 a gallon and declared Obama’s “left wing view” a “fantasy,” calling it expensive to the American people.
“I believe we have a chance, a very real chance,” Gingrich continued, to win a historic election of landslide proportions.
As Santorum was on stage Saturday night, news broke that Mitt Romney would win the Washington state caucus. Campaign advisers were hoping for a strong showing in the Pacific Northwest to grab some momentum going into Super Tuesday.
He'll stump in Tennessee and Oklahoma on Sunday, both states where polls show him in the lead heading into Tuesday. But he'll quickly return to the Buckeye State to campaign on Monday.
"No matter what the election, no matter when it is, Ohio is the key," said Santorum in Lima.