Elections

Santorum, in Louisiana, sketches out his problems with Romney, Obama

James Plummer Contributor

NEW ORLEANS — Just days before Louisiana state’s Saturday primary, former Sen. Rick Santorum swung through the New Orleans area on Wednesday, attacking both President Barack Obama and presumptive Republican front-runner Mitt Romney at every stop along the way.

Santorum began Wednesday morning before a small audience of about 50 people, consisting mostly of media, at Superior Energy — an oil services company in Harvey on the West Bank of the Mississippi.

He began his speech by asserting that the brewing diplomatic and economic conflict with Iran proves the need to develop more energy sources at home. The candidate then ripped into the Obama administration’s “permitorium” — what critics have dubbed the White House’s de facto ban on issuing new drilling permits since the formal moratorium put in place after the BP oil spill was lifted.

“Eleven rigs, and 14 projects have gone overseas because of this president’s activity — slow-walking activity in the Gulf,” the former Pennsylvania senator said before a tableau of oil piping and a Santorum campaign banner. Santorum cited a figure that the permitorium policy has cost $8.2 trillion in gross domestic product and $2.2 trillion in tax revenue.

Santorum continued listing off the economic effects of Obama’s policies on the Gulf region: “Fifty percent of oil and gas service companies have laid off people; small local companies can’t move their operations overseas. … Some divisions of Superior Energy were sold off because of this administration’s two-letter energy policy: ‘N-O!’  Not for ‘New Orleans,’ but for ‘no’ permits on federal lands and offshore drilling — even pulling existing permits.”

Santorum called the pulling of existing permits “unprecedented.”

The candidate then moved on to attacking former Massachusetts Gov. Romney. He pointed out that a Romney aide went on television earlier Wednesday morning and compared the governor’s pre- and post-nomination platforms to an “Etch a Sketch” toy, suggesting a new kind of campaign set to win over moderate voters was in the works for the general election.  Romney “will say what he needs to say to win the election before him; and if he needs to say something different for the next election he will.” (RELATED: Romney aide causes stir with ‘Etch A Sketch’ comment)

Santorum’s entourage moved from the West Bank to the Northshore for his next stop: a rally in the town of Mandeville sponsored by the Northshore Tea Party. A couple hundred people waited more than an hour for the candidate, who had been delayed by rain. While the buzz in the lobby was about the NFL’s crackdown on the New Orleans Saints, two young ladies from Oklahoma, sisters Camille and Haley Harris, regaled the crowd in the main hall with several performances of their Santorum theme song: “Game On.”

As the wait dragged on, they pointed out that the senator “has seven kids and they didn’t abort the last one, which is amazing,” and tried to think of  other “cool things about Santorum” such as, “he believes marriage is between a man and a woman” — a point which drew much applause.

When Santorum finally did arrive, he stayed away from those hot-button social issues in his address, focusing more on the kinds of economic issues that have driven tea party groups across the country. He reiterated his points about energy development from the earlier speech, adding applause lines such as “Drill, baby, drill” and “mine, baby, mine!”

At the base of Obama’s energy policies, he said, was his mistaken belief in man-made global warming. The audience cheered as Santorum reminded them: “I understood it wasn’t climate science from the beginning — it was political science!”

Once again, at the end of the rally Santoum attacked Romney, pulling out an “Etch a Sketch,” waving it around and saying, “Imagine if Romney had been around at the time of the Constitution, he would have just shaken it up and rewrote it!” (RELATED: ‘Etch A Sketch’ makers hoping to make money off media attention)

Santorum would conclude with a discourse about what he saw as the Creator-driven Constitution and Declaration of Independence as opposed to the humanist French Revolution, but not before expressing strong support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and alleging that, “Iran getting a nuclear weapon is the same as al-Qaida getting a nuclear weapon …  We need to tell Iran, ‘You will be open for inspectors; you will shut down those facilities or we will shut them down for you!’”

After the speech, Karen Cassidy, the chaplain and correspondence secretary of Republican Professional Women of St. Tammany, told The Daily Caller that she was undecided but “loved the speech.” The “Etch a Sketch” prop in particular was “brilliant,” she said, adding, “I bet the talking point that the Romney campaign put out, they want to take it back.”

Santorum supporter Stacey Fitzmaurice told TheDC, “I thought it was giant, what he said about Romney.” A dedicated pro-life activist, Fitzmaurice was unperturbed by Santorum not mentioning the abortion issue, as his position is well known.

Before heading back to the airport, Santorum stopped at the nearby Harlan’s LA Fish & Seafood processing business in Kenner, where he successfully fileted a redfish and took media questions.

When asked if he supported efforts by Louisiana’s congressional delegation to get the state a bigger share of the oil and gas royalties that are currently going to the federal government, Santorum told TheDC that “It only makes sense that states which share in the risks also share in the rewards … We need a system that is fair to all involved and that encourages more states to participate” in energy development.

When further pushed to say if Romney can be trusted to expand energy development along the lines Santorum is proposing, Santorum said, “Gov. Romney said he still believes in man-made global warming. When he was governor, he put CO2 caps on power plants.”

Santorum’s bottom line: Whatever Romney is saying now about energy production or anything else, he will probably be saying something different in the fall.

Louisiana Republicans hold a presidential primary on Saturday that will decide about 20 percent of the state’s delegation to the Republican National Convention. Most of the delegates will be chosen through a caucus process that begins in late April.

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