MANCHESTER, N.H. – Most presidential candidates go to ground on several hours before a big televised debate. They meet with advisers, get a little rest.
Not former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. He held six events leading up to the 9 p.m. ABC-Yahoo debate, including a rally with a huge crowd in a barn – people were literally sitting in the rafters – in the southern town of Hollis. Hundreds who couldn’t get inside the barn gathered outdoors and Santorum addressed them too.
Standing on the bench seat of a picnic table outside a country store and deli on a warm afternoon in Amherst, N.H., Santorum attacked Mitt Romney as the candidate of the “status quo” and “the establishment.”
Romney has a commanding lead in the state, but Santorum fought him to a virtual tie in the Iowa caucuses last Tuesday and has the momentum. He is seeking to become the alternative to Romney for social-issues and tea party conservatives, competing for that niche with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“The leader in this race fashions himself as, ‘I’m a CEO. I’m a good manager,’” Santorum said from his picnic table dais, practically shouting as he gave a speech without amplification. That’s not what the country needs, he said, “it needs someone with a bold vision to transform Washington to limit government , not to manage the problems that are in that city.”
He reminded his listeners that Romney increased fees and taxes – particularly on commuters to the Boston area from southern New Hampshire – as well as spending while he was governor of Massachusetts.
Earlier, at a forum on the economy and public opinion at St. Anselm College in Manchester, Santorum blasted the “hubris” and “snobbery” of President Obama for suggesting in a state of the union speech that every American student should be able to go to college. (He actually said all students should be prepared to go to college.)
“Who are you to say that every child in America should go to college?” Santorum said. “I have seven kids. Maybe they’ll all go to college. But if one of my kids wants to go and be an auto mechanic, good for him! That’s a good-paying job.”