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Santorum Talks Religion, Energy and Social Security in Livonia

During a breakfast co-sponsored by the Greater Farmington Area and Livonia Chambers, the Republican candidate covered a wide range of topics.

Farmington resident Thomas Donovan came to this morning's breakfast with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum thinking he would probably vote for Santorum's chief rival in tomorrow's primary election.

He left St. Mary's Cultural Center in Livonia less sure about that. 

"Before I came today, I was probably in the Romney camp, and after hearing him (Santorum) speak, I started having second thoughts," Donovan said. "I'll have to think about it long and hard before I go into the polls tomorrow."

Co-sponsored by the and Livonia chambers of commerce, the event marked the second appearance by a major Republican presidential candidate in less than two weeks. Hills on Feb. 16. 

With about 300 attendees, the breakfast drew less of a crowd than the Romney event, but there was no less energy in the room. During his 30-minute speech, Santorum drew several extended rounds of applause and shouts of support from the audience. 

Santorum said he has been delivering a message of "hope and optimism" and "the importance of getting our economy turned around and producing things again ... that is the heart and soul of revitalizing the economy of this country for everyone in America."

He said a "real and fundamental change" in the size and scale of government is needed in Washington.

"That's the kind of scale we've been talking about," he said, diving into a discussion of his tax plan, which he said included simplifying the tax code and rate cuts that will spur economic activity. 

"This is a tax plan that isn't conforming to any type of school of economics ... we cut our own path," Santorum said. "We're Americans. We can do things different and be successful."

He said his economic plan would draw support from both sides of the aisle, because "it's a plan that's smart and looks at trying to be inclusive and make sure that everybody in America rises."

Santorum accused the Obama administration of having a "hostile and punitive" attitude toward businesses, interested only in finding people who do bad things and prosecuting them.

"We have a different attitude," he said. "We actually want business to be in America ... We're going to repeal every single high cost regulation the president's put in place. Every one." 

The candidate spoke on a wide range of topics: 

Energy 

Santorum advocated for the production of more domestic oil and accused the Obama administration of slowing down the process of hydraulic fracking, even though "hundreds of thousands of wells" have been drilled using the process. He also said the country will lose Alaskan oil production within the next five to 10 years, "unless we open up more oil for exploration up there", because not enough oil is moving through the pipeline to keep it going.

"Radical environmentalists win over jobs and cheaper, affordable energy and national security here in this country," he said.

Auto bailout

Santorum pointed out that the government didn't bail out the steel industry when it went under in Pennsylvania, but the state's economy is coming back and has diversified. "It was hard, but markets do work and people do adapt. That's what America's always been about, not government coming in and preserving a structure - not the industry - but a structure for the industry."

Church and state

Touching on comments that have garnered a lot of press attention over the past few days, Santorum said he believes in separation of church and state, in that "the state has no business telling the church what to do", which he said is what the nation's founders supported. 

"Now it's the church and people of faith who have no right to come to the public square and express their points of view or practice their faith outside of their church," he said. 

His candidacy

Santorum took a couple of shots at Romney, who was born and raised in Michigan and was governor of Massachusetts, home of a state-run health care plan that Santorum called "Obamacare-light". But for the most part, he hammered at the president. 

"We have an opportunity in this race to make it about Barack Obama and his failed policies," Santorum said. "We need sharp contrasts. We need a vision that is consistent, that believes in free people, free markets, that believes in bottom up solving problems, not top down."

Farmington Hills Mayor Barry Brickner, who is a Democrat and self-described moderate, said he was interested in Santorum's view point on Social Security. The candidate said the system is based on actuarial tables from the 1930s, when life-expectancy was almost 20 years lower than it is today. Santorum pointed out that people aren't necessarily ready for retirement at 62 any more – a point Brickner said he appreciated because he's 61 and has no intention to retire.

Having listened to both candidates, Brickner said he "kind of liked what Romney said more than Santorum ... Romney was more business-oriented. Santorum got too much into religion."

Farmington Hills resident Nanci Burnham said she liked that Santorum was consistent and sincere.

"He reminded me that if we don't change where we're headed as a nation, it's going to look really different," she said. "I appreciate his values and his perspective and I intend to support him."

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