POLITICS

Santorum to Examiner: Stands by '93 NAFTA 'nay'

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,John Vaught LaBeaume
DERRY, N.H. - Outside a diner in Derry, N.H., fmr. Sen. Rick Santorum answered question from the Washington Examiner shouted above the media scrum: "Senator: do you stand by your NAFTA "no" vote in 1993."  "If I were still representing" the same Rust Belt Pennyslvania district he represented in the U.S. House in 1993, then, yes, he would still oppose it.

Seeming uncomfortable for having to address the issue, Santorum skirted a follow-up: "Would you vote against it if it came up in Congress today?" 

Santorum's answer - reminiscent of Mitt Romney and others on abortion and Roe v. Wade - noted that NAFTA remains the law of the land, and as president he would "keep it in place."


Santorum's voting record on trade has attracted moans from libertarians and small government conservatives, such as The Examiner's Conn Carroll, who noted it in a list of positions in his column branding former steel state senator a "Statist claiming to be a conservative."  (Unfortunately for free trading GOPers, Ron Paul opposes NAFTA, too, on purist libertarian grounds.) 

Santorum has tried to broaden his message on the stump in New Hampshire after his Iowa surge to address restoring America's manufacturing base.   Pundits have speculated that this might be the key for Santorum to broaden appeal with folks from his own working-class, Northeastern Catholic roots. At a town hall in rural Hollis, N.H. on Friday, Santorum pointedly remarked that he rejects the notion that America must be resigned to becoming an entirely "ideas-based" economy and accepts that its manufacturing base is becoming obsolete. 

Look to results to Berlin, a heavily French-Canadian mill town with a history of hard luck, up near the Quebec border.  Berlin is a rare Democratic, union stronghold in New Hampshire and it's where Pat Buchanan's blending of social conservatism and economic nationalism scored particulalry well in 1992 and '96. It could mark the first indication of Santorum's appeal to this demographic in this primary season before the process marches through the Rust Belt, where Republicans are looking to steal states from Obama.

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