Santorum weighs in on race - LancasterOnline: News

Santorum weighs in on race

Ex-senator changes his stance on McCain

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Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 1:10 am | Updated: 4:48 pm, Wed Sep 11, 2013.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum told a radio show in January that a Sen. John McCain presidency would be "very, very dangerous for Republicans" because McCain often sided with Democrats on domestic issues.

Santorum's perspective, however, has changed.

During an interview Tuesday Santorum pointed to two examples as turning points: the religion forum at Saddleback and the selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate.

"Knowing McCain, he's choosing someone in whom he sees a lot of himself," Santorum said during a telephone interview with the Intelligencer Journal about his Senate colleague of 12 years. "He tries to find people who have a similar head as he does, and if he sees him in her … that gives me a better feel for him and a little more confidence in him."

And at the religion forum at the Saddleback megachurch in California a month ago, McCain mastered cultural issues important to conservatives - such as saying life begins at conception - which impressed Santorum.

"One of the great concerns I had about him was how he would deal with issues of the culture," Santorum said. "He did an outstanding job."

Santorum spent part of his Tuesday afternoon discussing the issues of the presidential race and the battle to secure Pennsylvania's vital 21 electoral votes.

With six weeks to go before the Nov. 4 election, Pennsylvania is a battleground state. Despite Democrats holding a 1.1 million edge in registered voters, McCain remains in a statistical dead heat with Sen. Barack Obama in voter polls.

Although Santorum is now a McCain-Palin supporter, it doesn't mean McCain is immune from criticism by Santorum, who was Pennsylvania's junior senator from 1994 to 2006.

Santorum said he doesn't particularly object to plans McCain has laid out to combat the recent meltdown on Wall Street such as setting up an emergency trust fund for struggling companies, streamlining regulation industries and calling for greater financial transparencies for companies receiving a bail out, but McCain's slamming of corporate America is concerning.

"Some of the rants against Wall Street sound a little too populist to me," Santorum said.

However, Obama's call to raise taxes on the wealthiest income earners and businesses is the wrong recipe for the economy, Santorum said.

Obama likes to tout his plan to reduce taxes for 95 percent of income earners, but a third of income earners receive tax refunds equal to what they pay in taxes or pay none at all, Santorum said. Paying for a tax cut to those who don't pay taxes with a tax hike on the wealthy is "wealth redistribution," he said.

"Is that what we want?" he said. "Wealth redistribution, or to create incentives in this country to create a bigger pie of wealth and more job opportunities? McCain's proposals, to me, seem very modest and target the right long-term approach."

Obama's campaign countered that claim.

"This is the same type of inconsistency we've seen repeatedly from McCain's campaign," Obama spokeswoman Andrea Mead said. " In one breath they lie by saying that Sen. Obama will raise taxes, then they criticize his tax plan for giving too much of a tax break to Americans.

"Here's the truth: Obama's plan cuts taxes on the middle class and won't raise taxes on anybody making less than $250,000 a year. A hypothetical taxpayer with $32,000 in taxable income would get a $502 tax cut under Obama's plan. McCain's plan, by contrast, would leave that person's taxes unchanged. Barack Obama will provide a broad base tax cut for the middle class-real relief for Americans who need it the most. McCain will provide more tax breaks to corporations that ship American jobs overseas - and provide no direct relief at all for more than 100 million middle class families."

Santorum ripped the Obama campaign for dragging the presidential campaign into a mudslinging affair, pointing to an Obama Spanish-language ad that said McCain was part of a Janus-like Republican party that included hardline conservatives like Rush Limbaugh looking to deport illegal immigrants.

McCain called in 2006 for a system that would provide citizenship for illegal immigrants already here while providing for more border security.

"That was an absolutely blatant lie," Santorum said about the ad. "That ad took Limbaugh's quotes out of context and tied them to McCain, and they don't agree on the issue. I don't know of any ad that's worse than that one."

The Obama campaign responded to those allegations as well.

"This is an interesting criticism coming from a campaign that has been characterized by dishonorable lies and attacks against Sen. Obama," Mead said. "John McCain tried to misrepresent a vote by Obama to protect young children from sexual predators, he tried to obscure the fact that Obama's tax cuts will benefit 95 percent of workers, and he even tried to paint himself as (a candidate for) change by lying about his running mate's record on everything from the Bridge to Nowhere, earmarks and covering up her increasing government spending and raising taxes."

Most pundits say this year's election is the Democrats' to lose with a struggling economy, little support for the Iraq war and the current president's approval ratings in the basement.

Obama's thin résumé has caused concern among voters, particularly blue-collar workers and those with families, Santorum said.

"I would have never put Pennsylvania in question and certainly not if Hillary Clinton" had become the Democratic nominee, Santorum said.

Much of Clinton's support during the primary came from the blue-collar areas such as Lehigh Valley and Scranton.

While Obama is expected to carry a massive victory margin among black voters in the Philadelphia area, McCain has a chance at winning among white and Hispanic voters, Santorum said.

"McCain is an acceptable alternative," Santorum said. "He's seen as a moderate and has a personal story to tell, which a lot of blue-collar folks can relate to. Obama can't relate to those folks, which is what we learned in the primary."

E-mail: dpidgeon@lnpnews.com

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