The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
              Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles during an event at the Keene Public Library, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
              Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles during an event at the Keene Public Library, Friday, Jan. 6, 2012, in Keene, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)   

Santorum faces another tough crowd in New Hampshire

Arriving thirty minutes late to a campaign event, a smiling Senator Rick Santorum faced another tough crowd here on Saturday as he attempted to win over Granite State voters to his brand of social conservatism.

While Iowa’s evangelical voters flocked to the former Pennsylvania senator in droves last Tuesday, his views on abortion and gay marriage are a harder sell among New Hampshire’s stubbornly libertarian electorate. Santorum, however, has refused to alter his message despite polls that show his momentum slipping after a well-publicized confrontation with college students earlier this week.

The event in Hollis had no shortage of students eager to challenge Santorum’s positions on social issues. Chas, a high school student from Rhode Island, wanted to know how Santorum could respect the 1st Amendment and freedom of religion given his “Faith, Family and Freedom” campaign slogan. The question received some cheers.

“I’ll ask you a question back,” Santorum replied. “What does the 1st Amendment say with respect to freedom of religion?”

Chas thought it said, “Churches should be kept completely out of government,” a response that elicited laughter from the crowd.

Santorum read the actual text aloud, saying that Chas’ mistake was sadly commonplace because America no longer teaches the text of the Constitution.

“I don’t call you a bigot, and you shouldn’t call me a bigot,” he said to sustained applause. “And just for the record, this gentleman didn’t say that, but it’s not like I haven’t been called that before.”

Santorum then went on to fend off questions about green energy, abortion and gay marriage. He spoke of how he became pro-life when he talked to a pediatrician, his father-in-law, about conception and the development of life, while insisting that he respected the views of pro-choice advocates.

The last question came from a supporter of gay marriage, who asked why in a country founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” those who were born homosexual could not wed.

“I’ve answered that question repeatedly, so I’ll just answer it this way,” he said. “I believe that marriage is a privilege, not a right. Not everybody or every thing can get married.” Santorum also said that marriage between one man and one woman, marriage, is a tradition stretching back “millennia,” that every child has the right to know his or her mother and father.

With that, Santorum ended the event and thanked everyone for showing up. “We are the 99 percent!” someone chanted, but Santorum just brushed it off.

“I come from steel country,” he said. “This is nothing, OK? I’m used to very tough crowds. You people here in New Hampshire have been awesome.”