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POLITICS

Santorum: Experience as commander-in-chief?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said today he is "the only candidate in this race that has any experience as commander-in-chief."

Santorum made the remark in a brief session with the press after a meet-and-greet at Dreamland, a storied barbecue restaurant not far from the University of Alabama.  With the state's primary coming up tomorrow, a local reporter asked Santorum simply, "What's your specific message for Alabama?"

"Alabama has a chance to elect someone [who agrees with] their values," Santorum answered.  "Limited government.  Somebody who believes in a strong national defense.  The only person in this race who's said I  wouldn't cut the Defense Department.  The only person in this race that has any experience as commander-in-chief.  The only person in this race who's ever reformed an entitlement, that wants to get smaller government.  And of course, I'm someone who's been a leader on family issues."

Santorum has of course never been president, and he has also never been a governor, in charge of a state's national guard forces. Asked about the commander-in-chief reference, campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart said later, "What he meant to say is that he is the only one who has the experience to be commander-in-chief."  Stewart said Santorum was referring specifically to his service on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Newt Gingrich would also argue with Santorum over the claim that Santorum is "the only person in this race who's ever reformed an entitlement."  Gingrich, of course, was Speaker of the House when Republicans reformed welfare, the most important entitlement reform in a generation.

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