TAMPA, Fla. — Onetime Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum rallied social conservatives at the Republican National Convention on Tuesday with a rousing speech on faith, family and small government, and with a call to back a man about whom they have had doubts — his former rival Mitt
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are dedicated to restoring the home where married moms and dads are the pillars of strong communities,” Santorum said.
Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, focused the convention on issues of critical importance to social conservatives, including traditional marriage and opposition to abortion, issues Romney has largely steered clear of with a campaign focused on the economy and jobs.
“I thank God that America still has one party that reaches out their hands with love to lift up all of God’s children, born and unborn,” an impassioned Santorum told the delegates, who quickly jumped to their feet to cheer. “All of us have the right to live the American dream.”
Santorum went after President Obama as well, charging that the president created a “nightmare of dependency” in which more and more Americans have come to rely on government assistance.
“President Obama’s policies undermine the traditional family,” Santorum said. “The fact is — marriage is disappearing in places where government dependency is the highest. If America is going to succeed, we must stop the assault on marriage and the family in America today.”
The Obama campaign assailed Santorum’s address as evidence of how extreme Republicans
“Rick Santorum’s speech tonight underscored the extreme GOP platform — written at the direction of the Romney campaign — which would take women’s health decisions out of their hands and eliminate protections for victims of rape and incest,” the campaign said in a statement.
Santorum’s embrace of Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, is intended to help the party’s presidential standard-bearer win over the party’s conservative wing, particularly the social conservatives who backed Santorum and a series of other more conservative candidates during the Republican primary.
Still, Santorum’s glowing endorsement of Romney on Tuesday was a far cry from the things he said about Romney just months ago during the primary.
In March, when Santorum was enjoying his last surge in support before Romney overtook him, Santorum declared to Republicans that another four years of Obama would be better than a Romney presidency.
“You win by giving people a choice,” Santorum had said during a campaign stop in Texas. “You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there.”
Santorum will continue to help Romney build bridges to conservatives Wednesday when he hosts a Patriots for Romney-Ryan 2012 reception in Tampa’s Liberty Plaza, an event that will feature top conservative leaders, including Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Ralph Reed and Americans for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist.