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Buoyant Santorum Takes Campaign To Texas — And Corrals Some Perry People

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Buoyant Santorum Takes Campaign To Texas — And Corrals Some Perry People

Rick Santorum

Buoyant Santorum Takes Campaign To Texas — And Corrals Some Perry People

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish. We begin this hour with the Republican presidential candidate glowing from victory and another who is still looking for a win. In a few minutes, we'll hear from two Ron Paul supporters about why they still believe. But first, Rick Santorum. Fresh off his hat trick in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri, he campaigned in the suburbs of Dallas today. This morning, he spoke at a small church to a group of pastors. NPR's Wade Goodwyn was there.

WADE GOODWYN, BYLINE: Forty miles north of Dallas where black prairie dirt meets the fresh-poured concrete of suburbia, this is Rick Santorum country. They rang the Bella Donna Chapel bell as the former senator from Pennsylvania arrived.


GOODWYN: This used to be Rick Perry country as host Donna Blackard(ph) reminded Santorum.

DONNA BLACKARD: My husband about four months ago, he told me he was going to go meet Rick Santorum, presidential candidate. I was like, no, his last name was Perry. Our governor's name is Perry.


BLACKARD: Who's Rick Santorum?

GOODWYN: But Rick Perry is gone and Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. If you're an evangelical Texas Republican, the herd has been thinned. But suddenly, rising like the phoenix, Rick Santorum.

RICK SANTORUM: One of the great gifts that I've had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I could ever win anything.


SANTORUM: The gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift.

GOODWYN: Rick Santorum got trounced in his 2006 re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate. Nevertheless, running as a very conservative, anti-abortion Republican in moderate Pennsylvania and winning was, if not a miracle, then always surprising. Now, he intends to astonish everyone again by stealing the nomination out from under Mitt Romney's nose. And Santorum had this group of north Texas pastors eating out of his hand by the time he was done here this morning on the subject of abortion.

SANTORUM: It's not a matter of belief. It's a biological fact. That is a human being at the moment of conception. That child is alive. The only difference between that child and anyone of you is time. Whatever we are in our life, we're all dependent.

GOODWYN: Santorum spoke movingly of his disabled daughter Bella. He described how she stopped breathing at home one night in his arms, and he stood there stunned, begging her to breathe. His wife, a nurse, grabbed the child out of his arms, threw her on the bed and administered CPR. That night at the hospital...

SANTORUM: I got a call from my daughter Sarah Maria, who was 10 at the time, and she said, Dad, how's Bella? I said she's hanging in there. It's still touch and go. She said, Dad, Mom, save Bella's life. I said that's right. She did, honey. She said, Dad, you didn't do anything.


SANTORUM: I said, well, honey, Daddy is a politician. I talked to her.


SANTORUM: Mommy is a nurse. She saved her.

GOODWYN: The theme of the morning was social issues, and Santorum used the opportunity to give his interpretation of yesterday's gay marriage ruling in California.

SANTORUM: The 9th Circuit decision yesterday said if you believe in traditional marriage between man and a woman and exclusively that it's because you are a bigot. Your belief of marriage between a man and a woman is purely irrational based on hatred and bigotry. That's what they just wrote.


GOODWYN: Outside the chapel, a group of well-wishers reached out in a line to shake Santorum's hand. Reverend Bruce Parks drove up from Houston. He was a Rick Perry man, but Santorum won his vote this morning.

REVEREND BRUCE PARKS: I think he did because he spoke to the things that are core issues for me as a husband, as a father and as a minister.

GOODWYN: Parks said he likes Newt Gingrich's politics, but he likes Santorum better as a person.

PARKS: There's an abrasiveness in Newt. I think he has good conservative values, but I think that sometimes there's almost a mean spirit.

GOODWYN: Eighteen-year-old Michael Smith brought her mother to see Santorum. She's always been a supporter. The rest of the family was for Perry.

MICHAEL SMITH: He just struck me because he was about faith and family from the get-go, and he didn't seem like he was faking. He just seemed like a really good man. And I just really appreciated that.

GOODWYN: It's been a good 24 hours for Rick Santorum, but the Texas primary is a long way away. He'll have to keep surprising people if he wants to get there. Wade Goodwyn, NPR News, Dallas.

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