Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania urged voters to support his bid for the Republican presidential nomination at appearances on Hilton Head Island and in Bluffton Saturday, saying he was being ignored by a national media that favors coverage of "flavor of the month" candidates.
Santorum, who served in the Senate for 12 years, said he has the best conservative record of anyone in the field and highlighted his fourth-place finish in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa in August. He finished behind U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.
Since then, however, Santorum has ranked low enough in most polls to be snubbed by the Palmetto Freedom Forum debate scheduled for Labor Day in Columbia and hosted by Sen. Jim DeMint.
To combat those weak rankings and scant media attention, Santorum said he will run a grassroots his campaign that emphasizes small stops like the one Saturday at Aunt Chilada's on Pope Avenue before about 40 people.
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"We're going to go out and earn it," he said.
Santorum said he is putting in the work because he can not stand by as American values are eroded through legislation such as the health care reform act.
Positioning himself as the social conservative candidate, Santorum spent more time talking about how he would restore America than blasting Democratic incumbent Barack Obama.
He said he would tackle the nation's economic woes through a pro-growth agenda by promoting manufacturing and encouraging energy production stateside. He also would push a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to reign in the national debt.
He has the ability to get all those reforms accomplished, he said, because he realizes the presidency is more like a "cajoler-in-chief" than a chief executive officer who dictates policy from the top down.
"I'm tough but I don't say 'my way or the highway,'" he said.
On the subject of marriage, Santorum pointed to his well-known stances against same-sex marriage
Hilton Head resident Don Fortney said he hadn't heard many of Santorum's positions because the media only focuses on the latest poll results.
He came out to find out more about him and thought Santorum did well.
"(The media) is picking our president for us," Fortney said. "They need to focus on what the candidates bring to the game."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.