Elections

Santorum: Obama in denial about Middle East ‘holy war’

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum took aim at Barack Obama and rival Mitt Romney after winning the Kansas caucuses on Saturday, charging that the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t have the experience necessary to handle a belligerent Iran — and that the president is in denial about troubles brewing in the Arab world.

“The president of the United States may not believe we’re in a holy war — They do,” Santorum said, speaking about Iran during a post-caucus rally in Springfield, Missouri.

“They’re out there specifically targeting Israel and the Jewish people. We’ve seen this before; we don’t want to see it again. We need a president who’s willing to stand up and make sure that never happens.”
.
“Obama said he has Israel’s back,” Santorum added. “I said, ‘No, you have turned your back on Israel.’ … If you listen to [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, it was a speech from a man pleading from a country that is being targeted for annihilation by a bunch of radical Islamists.”

Santorum played up what he said was a wealth of experience — unlike Romney’s — in fighting nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.

“I may not have been a Wall Street private equity fund manager, but I served eight years on the Armed Services Committee,” Santorum said. “I led the charge, I identified Iran’s nuclear program nine years ago. Authored bills to put in sanctions to stop it.”

“We’re not electing a CEO,” Santorum added. “We’re electing a commander-in-chief.”

“People stay my tough stance on Iran is warmongering. Just the opposite. I introduced that bill [calling for sanctions] because I wanted to prevent a war.” he insisted.

With his win on Saturday, Santorum collected 32 of Kansas’ 40 delegates to the 2012 Republican National Convention. Romney still leads the overall delegate count, with 441 to Santorum’s 213, and maintains a lead over Santorum by 10 points in the national polls. A candidate needs a total of 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination.

Santorum’s win was unsurprising in socially conservative Kansas, given his pro-life and pro-Second Amendment voting record.

Romney came in a distant second with just 17 percent of the vote, one point ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Texas Rep. Ron Paul came in fourth, with 13 percent.

Cherokee county Republican party chairwoman Lorie Johnson said she was thrilled with the turnout in her area’s caucus.

She said before Saturday’s events began that Gingrich’s decision to cancel his appearances in Kansas on the eve of the caucuses would probably benefit Rick Santorum. That appeared to be the case by Saturday evening.

Romney’s loss in Kansas points to his continuing difficulty attracting conservatives: Kansas is one of the most conservative states in the nation, and its electoral votes haven’t gone to Democrat since Lyndon Johnson won the White House in 1964.

The overall theme of the Kansas caucuses was the need to defeat President Obama in November.

“We cannot afford, and more importantly our children cannot afford, four more years of Barack Obama,” Lorie Johnson said.

Santorum volunteer Don Allen warned that if Obama doesn’t have to worry about re-election, there will be no check on his agenda.

“If you think Obama was radical up to now, wait until he has four more years and he’s not running for office,” Allen said.

The Missouri caucuses are scheduled for March 17. Missouri is a key swing-state, with 52 delegates at stake.

Santorum won Missouri’s non-binding primary by a 30-vote margin in February.