The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller
              Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a South Carolina Republican presidential primary night rally at the Citadel, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Charleston, S.C. Santorum says it  Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a South Carolina Republican presidential primary night rally at the Citadel, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, in Charleston, S.C. Santorum says it's a "wide open race" for the GOP nomination, even after finishing third in Saturday's primary. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)   

Santorum pitches himself in Florida by highlighting tough stance on Iran

CORAL SPRINGS, FL. — Rick Santorum told a Florida crowd on Sunday that if Iran doesn’t dismantle its nuclear program, a Santorum administration would do the job for them.

The former Pennsylvania senator was the first GOP presidential contender to host an event in the Sunshine State since the South Carolina primary on Saturday night. Pitching himself to the crowd at a rally outside a restaurant, Santorum promised to protect the United States, its ally Israel, and Western civilization more broadly from the Iranian threat.

“I will tell you that I will help them every way I possibly can,” Santorum said of the Iranian democratic opposition after lambasting the Obama administration for not supporting them when they were rising up in the streets against the Iranian government in June 2009.

“We will do everything we can to undermine that government. We will do everything we can to stop the production of a nuclear weapon. And if — and if — we reach a point where I believe the only thing that will stop them from this program being realized and having a nuclear weapon, I will make a clear declaration to the Iranian government that you either open your facilities, you begin to dismantle this nuclear program or we will dismantle it for you.”

The statement drew perhaps the loudest applause during Santorum’s 40-minute speech, which also focused on why Santorum believed he was the most consistently conservative candidate in the race. Roughly 200 people were in attendance, including a coterie of Ron Paul supporters carrying signs promoting their candidate.

One attendee who wished not to provide his name told The Daily Caller  he was at the rally to see Santorum in action, but hadn’t yet decided on whom to support in the primary.

“We want someone who is going to slash entitlements, stimulate growth,” he said, speaking for himself and his girlfriend. He added that he was only sure he wouldn’t support former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“He’s too left. You know he’s a hardcore liberal — socialized health care in his home state,” he said, referring to the health care law that Romney put in place while governor of Massachusetts. “So, you know, you can’t trust somebody like that.”

Alan Reynolds attended the rally carrying a sign praising Santorum’s famous sweater vests, which Santorum chose not to sport on Sunday. Reynolds said he liked Santorum because he believes the former Pennsylvania senator provides the clearest contrast with the president.

“I like the fact that he provides a clean contrast as a conservative against Obama’s record,” he said, “against his record of spending as far as the stimulus bill, cap and trade, health care. So that if he is nominated there will be a clean contrast for voters to choose between two substantially different people.”

Reynolds added that he could also support former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Romney if they were the nominee, but while he liked some of Ron Paul’s message, he wasn’t to keen on the messenger.

The Jan. 31 Florida primary is the next contest in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Follow Jamie on Twitter