FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Rick Santorum delivered what was billed as a major foreign policy speech at One Jelly Belly Lane in his latest in a series of attempts to invoke images of conservative icon Ronald Reagan.
Speaking to a crowd gathered at Jelly Belly Candy Company here, the candy manufacturers who produced Reagan's beloved jelly beans, Santorum's policy address was part homage to the former president and part blazing critique of his chief rival for the GOP nomination, Mitt Romney.
A picture of Reagan's face made out of jelly beans hung outside on the room where the former Pennsylvania senator told supporters the spirit of the Great Communicator had been lost. Santorum was not shy about citing Romney as an example of a politician who does not fit the Reagan mold. Santorum said Romney's inconsistencies on issues like gay marriage and abortion rights.
"We as conservatives need to stand up and fight for a candidate that can win this general election, who stands solidly, firmly on the 3 legs of the stool that brought the Reagan coalition together," Santorum said, referring to Reagan's belief in free enterprise, strong national defense, and conservative social values.
But it is an ad in Wisconsin which Santorum says paints him as an abortion rights advocate that GOP hopeful seemed particularly bothered by.
"I find it sort of remarkable that Gov. Romney is out running ads in Wisconsin right now basically saying I'm not pro-life," Santorum said, following with a list of the anti-abortion rights legislation he help push in Congress. "To suggest somehow or another that I am not pro-life, again, is a disingenuous game that is played by politicians who seek power instead of trying to be truthful to the American public," he said.
Santorum laid out a national security platform based in strengthening the U.S. relationship with its allies and holding other countries accountable, two things he criticized Obama for failing to have done.
"If you are a foe of the United States, and you do not respect the United States and our security interests, you will learn to fear the United States and your security interests," he said to applause. "Of all of the failings of this president, perhaps the greatest is on national security. And folks that’s saying something."
Visiting California meant a break from campaigning in Wisconsin, where polls showed Santorum struggling to keep pace with Romney. And yesterday, more bad news as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave his much anticipated endorsement to Romney.
"If an endorsement hurt me, I wouldn't be here," Santorum said while greeting voters after the event.
The candy company was Santorum's only campaign event in the Golden State, which holds its primary June 5. He spent the earlier part of the day fundraising in the Los Angeles area. And despite their late primary, the GOP hopeful seemed confident the state would be important this cycle.
"California doesn't get a chance very much to play in presidential politics, of late," he said. "But you will in this presidential primary."