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Santorum again stresses social issues at event in N.H., criticizing gay marriage


This news story was published on January 7, 2012.
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By Michael A.Memoli and Mark Z. Barabak, Tribune Washington Bureau –

MANCHESTER, N.H. — For the second time in as many days, Rick Santorum on Friday drew attention away from his efforts to craft a blue-collar economic message by wading into the issue of gay marriage. He suggested it was so important for children to have a father and mother that an imprisoned father was preferable to a same-sex parent.

Citing the work of one anti-poverty expert, Santorum said, “he found that even fathers in jail who had abandoned their kids, were still better than no father at all to have in their childrens’ lives.”

Allowing gays to marry and raise children, Santorum added, amounts to “robbing children of something they need, they deserve, they have right to. You may rationalize that that isn’t true, but in your own life and in your own heart, you know it’s true.”

The presidential candidate’s comments came as the campaign took on a sharper tone, with much of the skirmishing among a handful of Republicans bidding for a second-place finish behind presidential front-runner Mitt Romney.

Jon Huntsman took after Ron Paul over a video ad apparently posted by supporters of the Texas congressman, leading Paul to condemn the spot. Newt Gingrich defended a statement regarding blacks and food stamps, as well as his lucrative work for Freddie Mac, the federal mortgage guarantor.

Romney, reflecting his confidence in New Hampshire, wrapped up a two-day swing through South Carolina, the next state on the campaign calendar, before returning to the Granite State.

Back in Iowa, where the former Massachusetts governor eked out an eight-vote victory, questions surfaced about the accuracy of Tuesday night’s caucus count. State party officials, however, stood by the results.

Romney held a commanding lead in a New Hampshire poll released Friday by Manchester’s WMUR-TV, with 44 percent to 20 percent for Paul, 8 percent for both Gingrich and Santorum, 7 percent for Huntsman and 1 percent for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. They will debate twice in New Hampshire in less than 24 hours, starting Saturday night in a two-hour session on ABC. On Sunday morning, they will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As for Tuesday, weather is not expected to affect turnout. Temperatures have been unseasonably warm, hitting the 30s and 40s Friday, with no snow forecast until after the primary.

Santorum’s comments on gay parents came a day after he tangled with college students over same sex marriage. The former Pennsylvania senator has been a conservative crusader on social issues, which have far more political resonance in Iowa than New Hampshire.

At a private boarding school, Santorum’s voice grew emotional as he argued that only a man and woman should be able to marry. “Marriage is not a right,” said Santorum. “It’s a privilege that is given to society by society for a reason…We want to encourage what is the best for children.”

The audience, half students and half local residents, reacted with snorts and applause. The students at Dublin School, which runs from ninth through 12th grades, were primed for Santorum’s visit, said headmaster Brad Bates. He said three students in the audience had gay parents, though they were not among those who asked about the topic.

At a rally in Conway, S.C., Romney kept his focus on President Barack Obama, accusing him of “crony capitalism” and hostility to “free markets and free people.” Romney ignored the drop in unemployment, to 8.5 percent nationally, and instead criticized the president for “racking up deficits over a trillion dollars a year.”

Romney left it to his traveling companion, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, to lead the attack on two rivals, Santorum and former House Speaker Gingrich. McCain faulted both men for pursuing congressional earmarks, saying that channeling federal dollars to favorite projects was the “gateway to corruption.”

Santorum waved away the criticism, saying he was simply doing his job.

Paul, who has taken a surprisingly relaxed approach to campaigning, finally arrived in New Hampshire Friday afternoon. The third-place finisher in Iowa spoke for just about 15 minutes at an airport rally in Nashua, reprising his call for a more circumscribed foreign policy.

“We’re trying to salvage our Constitution and salvage our liberties,” he told the youthful, boisterous crowd of several hundred.

Though Paul has been absent from the state, he has kept a presence on the TV airwaves. It was the on-line video, however, that drew an angry response from Huntsman.

The spot, posted to YouTube by the account NHLiberty4Paul, cited Huntsman’s time as U.S. ambassador to China and used picture of his adopted daughter, Gracie Mei, to question his values.

“It’s just stupid,” Huntsman told college students in Concord. “If somebody wants to poke fun of me for speaking Chinese, that’s OK. What I object to is bringing forward pictures and videos of my adopted daughters, and suggesting there is some sinister motive there.”

Paul agreed. “All campaigns have to suffer these consequences when somebody puts something up with the candidate’s name on it,” he told reporters in Nashua. “Obviously it was way out of order.”

Huntsman, meantime, was savoring the endorsement of The Boston Globe, which reaches into the south of the state and, for the second time, snubbed its state’s ex-governor. (In 2008, the newspaper backed John McCain).

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