Santorum dismisses talk of stepping aside waiting for others to implode

Santorum promises high road, 'We'll beat them straight up'

During a tele-town hall, presidential candidate Santorum billed the event as an address on America’s failing education system, but he used much of his speech to introduce himself to Missouri voters and position himself as the candidate best-suited to take on President Obama.

“We want someone who’s going to take the high road, who’s going to talk about the issues that are important to this country and quit getting down into the gutter and talking about things that have nothing to do with who should be the next President of the United States,” Santorum said, continuing on a theme he introduced at CNN’s debate in Jacksonville on Thursday. “I’m sick and tired of candidates who think they have to do anything that’s necessary – anything to win an election.”

Santorum implored Missouri voters, who vote in a non-binding primary on February 7, that this election was too important to be distracted by the “gutter politics that we’ve been seeing in this race.” The state also holds caucuses on March 17 to begin the process of allotting the state’s 52 delegates.

When asked after the rally if he had a response to recent calls from Newt Gingrich supporters for him to drop out of the race and work to unite conservatives behind one challenger to Mitt Romney, Santorum said that the mere suggestion shows Gingrich’s supporters are nervous.

“You know I think one opponent calling for the other opponent to get out just shows the weakness that opponent feels – obviously feels in their own campaign,” Santorum said emphatically. “I’m not calling for anybody to get out. We’ll beat them straight up.”

This event marked the beginning of Santorum’s push towards primaries and caucuses to be held next week in several western states – a strategy the underdog candidate announced after taking several days to care for his three-year-old daughter Bella who was hospitalized with pneumonia on Saturday. Born with the genetic disorder trisomy 18, Santorum told CNN prior to the rally that there was a time during the last several days where his family feared they might loser their youngest child, but she seems to have turned the corner.

Santorum traveled home initially to raise money and prepare his tax returns for public release, and during his remarks he jokingly thanked the media for hounding him about his financial records.

“If it wasn’t for the national media’s harassment to get my income taxes and turn them over to the public I would not have gone home on Saturday and I would not have been there at a crisis time for my family,” Santorum said. “God works in mysterious ways doesn’t He?”

But after the event he was more somber when asked if the time at home had caused him to rethink his commitment to the campaign.

“I’ve always felt like family comes first, and these things always have a way of working out,” Santorum told reporters. “Obviously if things had not gone well that’s a different story but thankfully they have and we feel very energized that she’s going to do well. We found out some things that I think will help her in the future so even though it was a bad thing, there’s some good I think will come out of this that I think will help her health wise going forward.”

Speaking through a bullhorn to a crowd gathered outside the event, Santorum thanked them for their prayers for his daughter.

During the parts of the speech that pertained to education, Santorum was particularly forceful in berating Washington for thinking small when it came to reform.

“No one in Washington is talking about fundamental reform of the education system. They’re talking about how we can improve schools. Stop it! Stop it,” he yelled. “It’s failed. It’s government-run, it’s top-down, it won’t work, it never works.”

Santorum praised the model set by SCCC and other colleges “built not by the government,” but rather by “people who had a vision for providing a service to their community or to their country,” a service the “market would pay for.”

But according to the St. Charles Community College web site, the school is a public institution created by voters in an April 1986 election. The college’s expansion has been subsidized by funding approved in several subsequent elections – including a $23 million bond issue approved by college district voters in 2004.

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