Santorum: Detroit Could Be Saved With Tax Cuts

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Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum traveled to Michigan on Thursday, where he delivered a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. Polls show Santorum leading Michigan-born Mitt Romney in the state.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Rick Santorum was in downtown Detroit today outlining his plan to revive U.S. manufacturing. The prescription: cut taxes in regulation. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea reports.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Santorum appeared before a gathering of the Detroit Economic Club, a nonpartisan organization that has a long tradition of hosting presidential hopefuls. He touched on GM's record profit for last year, only indirectly as he began his remarks.

RICK SANTORUM: Here in Michigan, you've been through a lot of tough times. We all know that. And it's exciting to see the resurgence of the auto industry here, but over the last four years, Michigan's lost over 140,000 jobs.

GONYEA: Michigan's economy has been improving. The jobless rate peaked in the summer of 2009 at just over 14 percent. Today, it's 9.3 percent. People in the state feel much better about their prospects compared to just a couple of years ago. Nonetheless, unemployment is still higher than the national average.

SANTORUM: So, if you were to ask the question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? To many people in the state, the answer would still be no.

GONYEA: Santorum didn't specifically address the turnaround of GM and Chrysler until the Q and A session near the end of his appearance. He and Romney both oppose federal aid for the two companies, so they're in the same position on that topic as far as Michigan voters are concerned, but Santorum today sought to highlight this difference.

SANTORUM: Governor Romney supported the bailout of Wall Street and decided not to support the bailout of Detroit. My feeling was that we should not support - the government should not be involved in bailouts, period. I think that's a much more consistent position.

GONYEA: It should be noted that Santorum lost his Senate seat in 2006, and thus didn't cast a vote on either the auto or bank bailouts, but his comments today get back to the driving theme of the Santorum campaign in Michigan and elsewhere, that he is the consistent conservative in the race, that Romney falls short in that regard.

Polls in recent days do put Santorum in the lead here. The state GOP has a large number of social conservatives and the Tea Party is active, as well. With 12 days to go before the Michigan primary, Santorum is hoping those voters can help him overcome Mitt Romney's home field advantage.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Detroit.

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