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Romney, Santorum Spar on Illinois’s Election Eve



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East Peoria, Illinois — Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, both of whom have been crisscrossing Illinois in recent days, opted to make their closing pitches less than ten miles apart.

Speaking at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., tonight (the alma mater of Rep. Aaron Schock, who introduced Romney), Romney took aim at Santorum’s statement earlier that day that he didn’t “care what the unemployment rate is going to be.”

“One of the people who’s running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn’t care about the unemployment rate, that doesn’t bother him,” Romney told the hundreds assembled out on a lawn. “I do care about the unemployment rate, it does bother me. I want to get people back to work, I’m concerned about those that are out of work.”

“One of the reasons I’m running is to get my expertise in place so we can put people back to work and get America strong again with a strong economy,” he added.

The crowd gathered, many of them college students casually dressed in shorts and t-shirts, was a mixture of supporters and antagonists; when Romney came out, students near me shouted “Obama 2012.” (Paul supporters were also present.) When Romney announced he was taking questions, the first  question was about birth control  “So you’re all for like, yay, freedom, and all this stuff,” said the first questioner, a woman. “And yay, like pursuit of happiness. You know what would make me happy? Free birth control.”

“If you’re looking for free stuff you don’t have to pay for, vote for the other guy,” Romney responded. “That’s what he’s all about.”

In response to another question, Romney reiterated his position that he wanted to end government funding for Planned Parenthood.

Santorum, in turn, mocked Romney for calling him an “economic lightweight.”

“As if the person who put in Romneycare, raised taxes by almost a billion dollars as governor of Massachusetts, was 47th out of 50th in job creation,  when the four years before Massachusetts was 16th — if he’s an economic heavyweight, I’m going to quote David Axelrod,  ‘He must be looking in a funhouse mirror.’”

He ended his stump speech with a passionate plea that voters not settle for the moderate candidate.

“We hear this all the time in Illinois: ‘We need a moderate to win,’” Santorum said to the hundreds gathered in a parking lot of a faded strip mall, the smell of pizzas wafting out from a pizzeria as several of the 19 Duggar children wove through the crowd and asked for donations to the Santorum campaign. “My question to you is: ‘What do you win if they win?’”

“Why do you vote differently than what you know is what’s best?” he continued. “Stand up. Have the courage of your convictions. I hear all the time the criticism of those who go to Washington: ‘Oh, they compromise, they don’t stand up, they don’t have the courage of your convictions.’”

“Well, how about you?” he said. “Do you really believe this is the best course for America: freedom and limited government, a strong America? Then go out tomorrow, for the next 24 hours, do your duty, uphold your honor, fight for the conservative cause, and let’s defeat Barack Obama in the November election.”



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