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In Ronald Reagan’s hometown, Rick Santorum compares Mitt Romney to Gerald Ford

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Rick Santorum in Dixon, Illinois. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

DIXON, Ill.—The day before the Illinois primary, Rick Santorum visited the boyhood home of former President Ronald Reagan to pitch Republican voters.

Reagan moved to Dixon when he was 9 years old with his family, and his old house now sits on Reagan Way, just off the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway, which is not far from Reagan Trail.

On Monday afternoon, in front of a statue of young Reagan astride a horse, Santorum tried to stake his claim as the True Gipper of 2012. The former Pennsylvania senator compared his current battle against Mitt Romney to Reagan's contest against then-President Gerald Ford in 1976, cautioning the crowd that the GOP needs to avoid a repeat of the type of fight Reagan faced.

"He fought an insurgent campaign against, no less, a sitting incumbent Republican. Now we don't have a sitting Republican incumbent running for office this time, but we have someone that is certainly the choice of the establishment Republican, someone who's 'turn it was.' We see that so often in Republican politics for president," Santorum told a few hundred supporters who gathered along the banks of the Rock River, where Reagan served as a summer lifeguard. "Reagan ran that insurgent campaign in 1976, and people said, 'Why don't you get out of the race? You don't have a chance of winning.' And he fought."

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Santorum mentioned that Reagan won 11 states in his first run for the party nomination in 1976, and that Illinois, coincidentally, would be Santorum's 11th victory this cycle. He told the crowd that Republicans called Reagan "too conservative" in 1976 and he reminded them about what happened when the party nominated Ford instead: four years of Jimmy Carter.

If the most recent polls are accurate, however, Santorum may need to look elsewhere to secure his 11th victory this cycle—he's down by double digits just a day before the primary.

From here, Santorum plans to make two final stops in Illinois before heading to Pennsylvania for primary night.

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