Santorum says he's gearing up for tough race

May 13, 2006|BY DON AINES


U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is unopposed in Tuesday's Pennsylvania Republican primary, but with one poll showing his probable November opponent maintaining a double-digit lead, the two-term incumbent was in Chambersburg on Friday encouraging supporters for a showdown that is nearly six months away.

"We're in a tough race. We're in a race that's attracted a lot of national attention," Santorum told a group of about 35 supporters at Franklin County Republican Committee Headquarters. "This is going to be an election where the team that wants it most is going to win."

Santorum said his campaign has made 100,000 "voter contacts," something George Bush's presidential campaign did not accomplish in Pennsylvania until August 2004.


A Quinnipiac poll this week had Santorum trailing state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. 49 percent to 36 percent. Casey, whose late father was a two-term governor, is favored to win the Democratic nomination over opponents Alan Sandals and Chuck Pennacchio.

Santorum challenged Casey to debates, saying he wished "my opponent would come out from behind his name and do so."

"The media has 5 1/2 years to tell their story. I have six months to tell mine," Santorum said.

Santorum touted a healthy national and local economy, noting the county's jobless rate of about 3 percent, the state's lowest.

Santorum said he cast votes this week to extend capital gains and dividend tax cuts that have stimulated the economy.

On national defense, Santorum said there is "an unprecedented attack on our intelligence-gathering capability," and defended intelligence agencies having access to databases of telephone calls.

"They are attacking us, but you don't know it because we've stopped them" Santorum said of terrorists, citing his access to intelligence information.

"The government doesn't care who you're calling ... The idea that we're spying on people is crazy," Santorum said. However, the information can be used to track calls by suspected terrorists, he said.

"Immigration is not a problem. It's a series of problems," Santorum said, responding to questions on the subject. He said a coalition of Senate "ag-state Republicans" and Democrats is blocking immigration reform.

"There seems to be no will to enforce immigration laws," said Jim Taylor of Mercersburg, Pa.

The government first must secure the border, provide a system for employers to verify the people they hire are here legally, then reform immigration policy, Santorum said.

"That issue has gotten down to the lunchroom, the water cooler and the dinner table," said Carl Helman, Santorum's county chairman. "Once it gets to that level, it's time for action."

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