Blog Posts by Chris Moody

  • Santorum adopts Oklahoma as his ‘Super Tuesday home state’

    Rick Santorum speaks at a rally in Oklahoma City, Sunday. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)

    BROKEN ARROW, Okla. -- Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Ron Paul don't have home states to call their own this Super Tuesday, but Santorum has decided to adopt one anyway.

    During a rally at a church near Tulsa on Sunday night, Santorum joked that since Pennsylvania--where he served in Congress from 1995 to 2007--was not competing in the Republican primary cycle until April, he felt most at home in Oklahoma.

    "I don't have my home state up on Tuesday like Congressman Gingrich or Gov. Romney, though Gov. Romney has about five home states--I don't know how that works--but I don't live that kind of life," Santorum said. "I have one home state. But I can tell you that if I feel like if I have any home state up on Super Tuesday, it's here in Oklahoma."

    Ten states--Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont--will hold a caucus or a primary on Tuesday. Romney has claims to a few: He was born in Michigan, served as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and owns homes in California and New Hampshire. Gingrich has ties to Georgia, having represented the state in the House of Representatives from 1979 to 1999.

    The Oklahoma primary has a respectable 43 delegates at stake, and Santorum is counting on conservative states like it to bolster his delegate count. Santorum said he felt a kinship with Oklahoma, a state that voted solidly for John McCain in 2008, and George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000. 

    "Get this brushfire going," Santorum told the hundreds of supporters who filled the church gymnasium Sunday night. "I saw a few brushfires on my way over. ... We need another kind of brushfire from here in the heartland."

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  • Video: Demonstrators interrupt Rick Santorum speech in Oklahoma City

    OKLAHOMA CITY -- About 20 liberal demonstrators tried to shout down Rick Santorum while he delivered his stump speech on the steps of the state capitol building here Sunday, yelling "racist" and "fascist" at the Republican presidential candidate.

    The anti-Santorum faction began chanting "Get your hate out of our state" when the candidate started his address. Standing before a microphone at the top of the steps, Santorum ignored them and continued speaking. The demonstration lasted about 15 minutes.

    Santorum supporters standing near the front of the crowd tried to come to his aid by holding signs in front of the demonstrators and shouting, "We pick Rick! We pick Rick!" Some of the anti-Santorum demonstrators ripped the signs out of supporters' hands.

    The crowd cheered as the demonstrators left, and Santorum finished his speech, saying at one point that the departed crowd members should get jobs instead of shouting at public events.

    Santorum is spending Sunday in Oklahoma rallying support before Tuesday's Republican primary election.

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  • Poll: Santorum slightly ahead in Ohio before Super Tuesday

    The weekend before Super Tuesday, an NBC-Marist Ohio poll of registered voters shows Rick Santorum edging out Mitt Romney, but just barely.

    The topline results:

    • 34% for Rick Santorum
    • 32% for Mitt Romney
    • 15% for Newt Gingrich
    • 13% for Ron Paul
    • 1% other
    • 6% are undecided

    The poll, conducted February 29 - March 2 with 2,518 registered voters, has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.8 percentage points.

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  • Santorum bets on Ohio for Super Tuesday

    Rick Santorum shakes hands during during a campaign rally in Blue Ash, Ohio. (Eric Gay/AP)

    BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- While Republican voters in Washington state caucused Saturday afternoon, Rick Santorum was more than 2,000 miles to the east, focusing on the upcoming election in Ohio, where he traveled from the southern border near Kentucky to the north below Michigan in a day-long sweep of the Buckeye State.

    Ohio, a delegate-rich mid-western state, is where Santorum has invested much of his pre-Super Tuesday resources. And it seems to be working. Santorum is polling at a statistical tie with Mitt Romeny, and the former Pennsylvania senator is banking on Ohio to launch his campaign into the next round of elections. Tuesday's multi-state, 400-plus delegate election will be a proving ground for Santorum to show voters--and perhaps more importantly, donors--that he has the organizational prowess and appeal to sustain his campaign into the dog days of spring.

    "Ohio can make this election," Santorum told Republicans during a dinner for the local Republican party in Lima.

    Watching him campaign here, it's clear just from the caliber of his events that Santorum's staff is pouring more money and time into this contest than other candidates. In Ohio, the campaign dispatches volunteers to ensure every supporter has a sign to wave and they must surrender their contact information before stepping in the door. These are all campaign staples, of course, but ones he has gone without in the past. There's even music playing at the Ohio rallies--a rarity at Santorum events, in comparison to his opponents. Here, Santorum is making the case that he is a legitimate candidate, but the only way he can ultimately prove that is by knocking out a few more wins in the weeks to come.

    With his wife and two of his seven children in tow Saturday, Santorum underwent a near border-to-border tour of the state, speaking at a morning rally, a Fox News forum and two local Republican party dinners. He even had time to gobble down a six-inch Subway sandwich while his wife, Karen, went shopping at Wal-Mart.

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  • Mitt Romney wins Washington state caucuses

    Mitt Romney won the Republican caucuses Saturday in Washington state.

    With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Romney captured 38 percent of the vote, followed by Ron Paul with 25 percent, Rick Santorum--about 500 votes behind Paul--with 24 percent, and Newt Gingrich with 10 percent.

    None of the state's 43 delegates were awarded Saturday, but the victory gives a sense of momentum to Romney's candidacy, three days before the 10-state election on Super Tuesday. Washington is the fifth state in a row that Romney has won in the Republican Party's presidential nominating process.

    All of the candidates spent time campaigning in Washington, but Romney and Paul invested the most organizational effort. Neither Romney nor Santorum spent caucus night in Washington, choosing to campaign in Ohio instead, where 66 delegates are up for grabs on Tuesday. Only Paul is scheduled to be in the state when the results were announced. He was also the only candidate to buy air time in the state, spending $40,000 on television ads. He is planning to campaign in Alaska on Sunday.

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  • In coal-rich Ohio, Santorum adjusts message to focus on energy

    Rick Santorum speaks in Chillicothe, Ohio. (Paul Vernon/AP)CHILLICOTHE, Ohio-- "You want a free hat?" a man clutching a bag of white baseball caps that read "Coal = Jobs" asked as Rick Santorum supporters shuffled into a school gymnasium where the candidate was speaking Friday. Given the remarks Santorum was about to deliver, the accessory was fitting.

    Santorum spent much of his 50-minute address on jobs, particularly  in the energy industry. Ohio ranks third in the country in coal consumption behind Texas and Indiana and is also one of the largest suppliers in the country. While Santorum traditionally mixes his speeches with a message of both economic and social topics, his address in southern Ohio leaned heavily toward the former. "There's no more important issue than to get this economy going," he said.

    Santorum, who often mentions on the campaign trail that his grandfather was a coal-miner, leveled a range of criticism against President Barack Obama in his wide-ranging speech, but reserved his strongest denunciations for his handling of energy.

    "We have a president who has said, that stuff in the ground, coal, gas, oil, it's a liability. It's something that does harm. His Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule that carbon dioxide was a pollutant. C02 is a pollutant. Tell that to a plant," Santorum said.

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  • Santorum campaign faces growing pains as Super Tuesday approaches

    Rick Santorum speaks to students at Belmont University in Nashville. (Chris Moody/Yahoo News)

    NASHVILLE--Rick Santorum was late. The students at Belmont University were growing restless.

    "So the rule is we wait five minutes for an adjunct, 10 for a professor ... How many for a potential presidential candidate?" tweeted Belmont University student Ale Delgado as she waited in her seat Wednesday night.

    Santorum had scheduled an appearance on Fox News before the event, but was detained when the live feed went down because of a nearby storm. The evening showcased the worst of the growing pains the Santorum campaign is suffering as it tries to beat Mitt Romney in the contest for the Republican nomination. Campaign staples, like providing signs for the audience to wave or gathering contact information from everyone who walks through the door, are notably absent.

    Students continued to trickle in, but by the time Santorum finally arrived, the floor seats of the venue were only about 80 percent full. It became clear when Santorum began to speak that he was addressing a mixed crowd. Most of the students on the floor were eager supporters of the senator who cheered and hooted at his best lines, but surrounding them in the stands sat a loud horde of liberals, snarky Ron Paulites and yawning co-eds glued to their cell phones.

    And in the bleachers stage right, were a handful of students with Romney yard signs.

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  • Santorum campaign spin: Michigan ‘not a win’ for Romney

    Rick Santorum gives a speech at a rally in Washington on March 1, 2012. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
    ATLANTA—The Santorum campaign is spinning the Michigan primary as a high point for the candidate, pointing to Romney's strong expectations and his personal roots in the state. Romney won the state of his birth by just 3 percentage points on Tuesday, but the candidates each won seven of the state's 14 Congressional districts. Because the state awards delegates proportionally, Romney and Santorum won two apiece in each of the seven districts they won.

    "It is not a win for Mitt Romney," said Santorum campaign strategist John Brabender. "It is a tie for Mitt Romney in his home state."

    While it was initially reported that the two candidates split the remaining two at-large delegates, the state party voted to award both to Romney, giving him a 16-14 advantage.

    Looking ahead, 10 states will hold electoral contests next Tuesday, and Washington holds caucuses on Saturday. Santorum is looking to the next week as an opportunity to kick-start his delegate count. Romney currently has about twice as many delegates committed to him as Santorum, according to the Wall Street Journal, and 480 more are up for grabs over the next few days.

    Santorum's Super Tuesday blitz began Wednesday with two events in Tennessee, followed by a day split between Georgia and Washington state on Thursday. He plans to spend much of the weekend in Ohio, a state with the second-most amount of delegates at stake next Tuesday and where some state polls show Santorum leading by double digits.

    Using Michigan's number as an indicator for the future, the campaign seems to have received a second wind in what has become a marathon race for the nomination.

    "Right now if you look at Super Tuesday, and you look at the states there in the heartland, we're doing exceptionally well," Santorum said in Atlanta on Thursday. "If you look at those states at the center of the country where the election is ultimately going to be decided, we're the candidate that's got the momentum."

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  • Santorum knocks Romney for flubbing answer about Blunt amendment

    Santorum addresses supporters in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday. (John Amis/AP)ATLANTA -- Rick Santorum criticized Mitt Romney Thursday for flubbing an answer to a question about a bill in Congress that would grant a conscience exemption to President Barack Obama's federal health care law.

    Romney was asked about an amendment proposed by Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri, that would allow employers who offer health care plans to apply for an exemption to federal mandates--such as contraception coverage--if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The bill failed in the chamber in a procedural vote on Thursday morning. Initially, Romney said he opposed the amendment, but he later issued a statement that he misunderstood the question and that he supported it.

    Santorum seized on Romney's apparent reversal and suggested that he changed his mind only when his "consultants" advised him to for political reasons.

    "We saw an insight into what's in the gut of Governor Romney yesterday," Santorum told supporters at a campaign rally in Atlanta before departing for a flight to Spokane, Wash. "When Gov. Romney was asked that question, his knee-jerk reaction was, No, I can't be for that. Well then after his consultants talked to him, then he came back and said, No, I didn't understand the question. Well maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But I'll tell ya, if I was asked a question like that, my gut reaction would be always--My gut reaction would be, you stand for the First Amendment. You stand for freedom of religion."

    "A lot will tell you what kind of president you're going to be when you haven't been properly briefed by your consultants," he went on to say.

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  • Rick Santorum’s little gaffes: endearing or problematic?

    Rick Santorum holds a piece of oil-rich shale rock during a speech. (Carlos Osorio/AP)DETROIT -- Rick Santorum is a man who shoots from the hip, and he's proud of it.

    "I never have to worry about what I say," Santorum told supporters during a campaign stop in Traverse City, Mich., last weekend, "because I will say what's on my heart. I might not say it the most articulate sometimes and I understand that, but I have no teleprompters. I answer questions."

    He's right about a few things here. His speeches are off-the-cuff, a skill he practiced over nearly two decades in public life and honed when he held literally hundreds of intimate town hall meetings in Iowa. Those "events"--a generous term--provided voters with unparalleled access to the former Pennsylvania senator and often felt more like hangout sessions than an address from a presidential candidate. Now that he's leading national polls, Santorum hasn't changed his strategy much, but more people are paying attention to what he says.

    And sometimes, he says things that just aren't true--and he ends up having to walk them back when the press hounds him for it.

    Most of the baby gaffes are probably by accident, but they could have been avoided if he had better prepared his remarks or--dare we say--used a teleprompter. In the past week alone, Santorum delivered a flowing stream of these small misstatements. Members of the press, constantly on the hunt for something fresh to say, jumped on each one.

    During his most recent campaign swing, Santorum's avoidable trouble began while blaming President Barack Obama for high gas prices.

    "We went into a recession in 2008 because of gasoline prices," Santorum said on Feb. 27 during a speech in Lansing, Mich. "The bubble burst in housing because people couldn't pay their mortgages because of $4-a-gallon gasoline."

    Well sure, high prices at the pump certainly don't help while financial resources are tight, and economists have debated the role they played in the recession. But Santorum used the word "because," suggesting that it was gas prices that single-handedly brought down the global economy. After the speech, reporters tried to get him to clarify the remarks to see if that's what he meant, but he declined to walk it back at first.

    The next afternoon, on primary day, reporters were still asking him about it, which is not what he wanted to discuss just hours before the polls closed.

    "Certainly the spiking gas prices had a huge impact on the recession in 2008," Santorum said, defending his comments.

    "But did they cause it?" a reporter pressed.

    "Okayyy," he said. "They contributed to, if that's a better way of putting it, they contributed to the recession of 2008."

    Later that night, as Santorum addressed his supporters in Grand Rapids after it was clear that Romney would win both state contests in Arizona and Michigan, Santorum stuck with his trademark free-flowing style. He discussed how far the campaign had come, vowed to press on and invoked the nation's founders, saying: "The men and women who signed that declaration wrote the final phrase, 'We pledge to each other our lives, our fortune and our sacred honor."

    Reporters sitting in the back noticed, and brought up the error during a question and answer session with Santorum's chief strategist John Brabender later that night.

    "He said men and women signed the declaration," a reporter said. "No women signed it."

    "I'm sorry," Brabender said. "You're right, if you want a retraction on that, I won't tell you otherwise."

    During the same speech, Santorum also promised that his administration would "end entitlement programs on the federal level, give them back to the states and cut them dramatically to save money." For many people--right or wrong--the vague promise to "end entitlement programs" could mean dismantling the federal Social Security and Medicare programs--which is not something Santorum wants people to think he believes. (Brabender, again asked to clarify, said that Santorum was referring to programs like food stamps, and that while Social Security needs reforming, it should belong in the federal government's domain.)

    These small misstatements, of course, aren't devastating. They won't torpedo his candidacy. Campaigning will go on. But is appearing off-the-cuff so important that it's worth having to constantly correct and clarify, when you could be talking up your strengths and ideas or highlighting the weaknesses of Obama or Mitt Romney?

    For Santorum, the answer is a firm yes.

    "What you have with me," he likes to say, "is 'what you see is what you get.' " And perhaps some voters find this freestyle nature endearing and real, gaffes and all.

    Then again, maybe reporters just have too much time on their hands.

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