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Santorum testing messages before deciding on 2016 run

Posted March 26, 2015

— Former Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said during a Thursday visit to the North Carolina General Assembly that he plans to decide by late spring or early summer whether to make another run at the presidency in 2016.

Santorum, who was in the Triangle for a speaking engagement, stopped by the Legislative Building at the invitation of Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, and quickly launched into what frequently sounded like a stump speech on the campaign trail.

"I'm looking at folks across America, and I see a tremendous amount and angst (and) frustration with politics and politicians, particularly in Washington, D.C., because of our inability in Washington to get anything done," Santorum told a couple dozen lawmakers, legislative staffers and reporters. "It frustrates me that we don't have anyone with real leadership trying to bring the country together."

A unifying message is what the country needs, he said, and he plans to test his own message in the coming weeks to see if it meets that standard.

"A key part to me is having the Republican Party to have a message or having a candidate that has a message that's a unifying one," he said. "If you're out there talking about creating great opportunities for the American dream for hard-working Americans who are feeling left behind and ignored by both parties over the past several elections in a presidential race and you can go out there and deliver that message that really can strike home, irrespective of race, color, etc., then you have an opportunity to, I believe, bring America together and, from the standpoint of Republicans, transform who this party is."

The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has become "the most divisive in modern history" under President Barack Obama, according to Santorum.

"They are all about division. They are all about dividing people between race and ethnicity and gender. It's the worst of politics, in my opinion," he said. "People are sick of it, but we have to have an alternative. We just can't say, 'They're bad.' We just can't say we disagree with them and we don't like what they're doing. We have to have a vision that is one that is unifying."

A former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, he noted the working-class families from the steel mills and coal mines who have voted Democratic for generations are now backing Republicans because they feel the party cares more about U.S. energy production and manufacturing than Democrats do. Republicans need to spread that belief nationwide, he said.

"The notion that a rising tide lifts all boats is true unless your boat has a hole in it," he said. "In America today, we're increasingly seeing folks whose boats have holes."

The U.S. economy needs to rebuild its manufacturing base, Santorum said, through lower energy prices and a more educated workforce. Vocational education needs to be emphasized in high school so that students interested in manufacturing careers don't have to wait until graduation to seek the needed training in community colleges.

"We have a generation of young people in America who don't know how to use tools," he said.

Schools also need to be reformed so they aren't using a 19th-century format to address 21st-century needs, he said, but they don't need to conform to the Common Core academic standards to succeed.

"The last thing we need are national standards. The last thing we need is national anything," he said.

Parental and community support are the primary drivers of student achievement, Santorum said, comparing such a support system to air bags that help teens survive the often bumpy road of adolescence.

State legislatures play key roles in crafting policies to back up families and schools, he said, encouraging his audience to find ways to boost both.

"Government shouldn't be on the side against marriage," he said, noting tax policy and welfare policy often encourage couples to simply live together rather than get married.

Yet, Santorum cautioned against basing policy on "some agenda" as he spoke about Wednesday arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on federal standards for mercury in power plant emissions.

"It's just outrageous that the federal government can actually put forth regulations, which they do now on a regular basis, that completely discount the cost to society and look at hypothetical health care benefits," he said.

More emphasis needs to be put on scientific data in developing regulations, he said.

"It's important for us to continue to fight with science," he said. "I always find it really incredible that the other side says that conservatives are the anti-science party. In fact, we are the pro-science party. We want rigorous scientific evaluation. We want those balancing tests of looking at what the real impacts are of all of these chemicals that are in the environment, whether in the air or the water, and then we have to use reasonable judgment as to what is best for society instead of what is best for some agenda."

6 Comments

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  • Roy Hinkley Mar 30, 2015
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    View quoted thread



    He'll never escape that.

  • Anthony Snark Mar 29, 2015
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    Testing messages? How about "Less frothy in 2016"?

  • Floyd Bridges Mar 27, 2015
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    The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has become "the most divisive in modern history"

    100% True. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of divisiveness to get rid of the party system. Short of a revolution or some other crisis, I don't think that's possible. Hyper-partisanship is too ingrained in our politicians, our news media and even people who post comments here.

  • Doug Hanthorn Mar 27, 2015
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    What a lying joik. Republicans are the pro-science party? They want rigorous scientific evaluation? They've already had it and they just reject what they don't like. So sad.....

  • Paul Maxwell Mar 27, 2015
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    In Raleigh, it's more of a bus...

  • Terry Watts Mar 26, 2015
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    Another passenger in the clown-car...