Santorum Challenges Obama's 'World View'

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has been the hot story in the GOP presidential contest this month. Over the weekend, Santorum raised eyebrows with comments on public education, prenatal testing and what he called President Obama's "phony theology." Santorum was making waves just days ahead of the next Republican debate on Wednesday.

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Rick Santorum has been the hot story in the Republican presidential contest this month. He made sure to stay in the spotlight after a series of controversial remarks over the weekend. Santorum raised eyebrows with comments knocking public education, prenatal testing, and what he called President Obama's phony theology. The candidate is making waves just before the next primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

Here's NPR's Sonari Glinton reports.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: At a luncheon for the Ohio Christian Alliance in Columbus, Rick Santorum stood to give a speech. In many ways, it was a rather subdued version of the message Santorum has carried since he began running for president.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

RICK SANTORUM: Thank you.

GLINTON: What's different is that Santorum has moved ahead in the polls in the upcoming Michigan primary, and that has brought much greater attention to Santorum and his ideas. Here he is talking about education.

SANTORUM: Yes, the government can help. But the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly, much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic.

GLINTON: From education, he moved to abortion and the 2010 Health Care Law.

SANTORUM: They require free prenatal testing in every insurance policy in America. Why? Because it saves money. Why? Because free prenatal testing ends up in more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society.

GLINTON: Later, at a rally for the Hilliard Ohio Tea Party, Santorum slammed the president's ideas on the environment.

SANTORUM: This is what the president suggested - it's not about you. It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Right.

SANTORUM: It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible - a different theology...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

ROBERT GIBBS: I can't help but think that those remarks are well over the line.

GLINTON: That's Robert Gibbs, senior advisor for the Obama campaign, speaking on ABC this week.

GIBBS: I think this GOP primary is - in many cases, has been a race to the bottom. We have seen nastiness, divisiveness, ugliness, distortions of opponent's records, of the president's record.

GLINTON: Santorum took time Sunday to clarify his statements on CBS's "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer.

(SOUNDBITE OF "FACE THE NATION")

SANTORUM: It's not questioning the president's beliefs in Christianity. I'm talking about, you know, his - the belief that man is - should be in charge of the Earth and should have dominion over it, and should be good stewards of it.

GLINTON: Santorum also clarified some of his other positions. He said he supported sonograms and some other forms of prenatal care, but did not think the government should force parents to have those procedures done. And on education, Santorum - who's been home schooling his seven children for years - says parents and local communities should in charge.

Bill Ballenger is the publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. He says Santorum is simply highlighting his differences with Mitt Romney.

BILL BALLENGER: Rick Santorum has been in first place in the polls in Michigan for a week, simply because he was not Mitt Romney.

GLINTON: But Ballenger says the key to the Michigan Republican primary is not necessarily the hardcore conservative base, to which Santorum appeals. He says it's more important to sway democrats and independents who are also allowed to vote in the primary. Ballenger says Santorum may be driving those votes away.

BALLENGER: And you say, hey. You know, if I got to, you know, pick a dog in this fight - I'm not a Republican, but I want to pick the least objectionable Republican I can find - Romney sounds, all of a sudden, a lot more appealing to me...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BALLENGER: ...than Rick Santorum.

GLINTON: Ballenger says Santorum found himself ahead in Michigan without spending much time, money or energy there. He was handed a gift that could just as easily be taken away.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News.

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