CORAL SPRINGS (CBS4) – After a third place finish in the South Carolina primary, former Senator Rick Santorum brought his campaign message to South Florida voters on Sunday.
Santorum made it clear he has no plans to drop out of the race.
“This race is just starting,” Santorum told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “Let’s give the people of Florida and the rest of the country the chance to decide on this.”
Yet the question remains whether Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses, has the campaign infrastructure and money needed to compete in Florida.
Santorum began his day at the World Wide Christian Center in Pompano Beach, taking his message to his base – Christian conservative voters.
“It’s not just about getting jobs,” Santorum told the congregation. “I’m for getting jobs. It’s about making sure that we have faith and family.”
Santorum elaborated on his pro-life and pro-family stances, in a sort of introduction to voters.
Later, Santorum spoke at a rally outside Wings Plus, a restaurant in Coral Springs that has become a spot frequently visited by Republican politicians. Santorum flexed more of his conservative muscle in the speech, comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, promising to take a hard line on Iran over its’ nuclear program and boosting the economy. He also leveled attacks at his rivals, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
Santorum said Gingrich’s failure as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 1990’s shows Republicans cannot trust him to lead.
“He wasn’t governing as a conservative,” Santorum said. “He didn’t live up to all the hype.”
As for Romney, Santorum claimed, as he has repeatedly said during the Republican primary debates, that Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts was a “model” for President Obama’s plan. Santorum said, if elected, he would work to overturn Obama’s health care plan.
On South Florida issues, Santorum said he wants to create a system of legal immigration but said he does not support the Dream Act, which would allow some illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S.
“I have never supported any type of government benefit for people who are here illegally,” Santorum said.
Santorum also said he believes Florida’s 9.9% unemployment rate can be attacked by beefing up the state’s manufacturing and agriculture industries.
But no matter his proposals, experts say the calls for Santorum to drop out of the race will only intensify, as the party looks to coalesce around a candidate.
“He’s the last guy Gingrich needs to knock off” to face Mitt Romney one-on-one, said Bob Jarvis, constitutional law professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Santorum expects to hold a town hall rally in Lady Lake on Monday and take part in the Republican presidential candidate debate in Tampa Monday night.
He also expects the race to continue to become more and more heated as it turns to the Sunshine State.
“Our feeling is that there’s gonna be a lot of missiles flying over the next 10 days,” he said.