UNION LEADER: Santorum stakes out ground among Republican field
As originally appearing in Union Leader

MANCHESTER — Earlier this week, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum lost his voice in a serious bout of laryngitis.

By Thursday morning, he had it back.

The Republican presidential long-shot delivered a speech about restoring American manufacturing and the nuclear family — sometimes arguing, sometimes joking and often yelling — at a Politics & Eggs event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.

Santorum has yet to make much of an impression this election season, according to polls. And observers generally assume that his brand of social conservatism will play better in Iowa, which he won in the 2012 caucus, than in New Hampshire, where he has spent less time campaigning.

But he was in the Granite State Thursday to file for the New Hampshire primary, heading to Concord right after the St. Anselm College event.

At the Politics & Eggs event, Santorum sought to position himself as a staunch blue-collar supporter, not once mentioning foreign policy and emphasizing social issues much more than many of his competitors.

He told the audience of a few dozen people that the country needs to revitalize its manufacturing base to provide jobs to a struggling middle class.

“We have leaders in this country who look down their nose to people who work in factories,” Santorum said. But economic fixes alone aren’t sufficient, he said. The country also needs to fix and stabilize the structure of families. He cited the breakdown of the family unit — children being raised by people other than their biological mother and father — as a root cause of any number of societal ills, including education problems, racial tensions, the opioid addiction crisis and economic stagnation.

“We can sugarcoat it. We can be politically correct and never talk about it,” he said. “Or we can deal with the reality that families breaking apart are hurting our children in ways that we have never seen before, particularly young males.”

Santorum said boys are “marginalized” in the workplace and education system. “The war on women is talked about,” he said. “The reality is, we have a war on boys in America.”

He urged the crowd repeatedly to read Robert Putnam’s book “Our Kids,” which he said offered evidence of the dissolution of the American family.

During the question-and-answer session, one attendee went back and forth with Santorum over the candidate’s opinions on the family unit and personal avoidance of contraception — and whether such beliefs might conflict with a typical Republican small-government ethos.

Santorum said he wanted families and communities to take the lead, but also noted that government is already deeply involved in American families’ lives.

Santorum cast himself often as a teller of hard truths — including the need to reform entitlements and work across party lines to accomplish things, which he said he did successfully with welfare reform in Congress.

Wendy Thomas of Merrimack, mother of the social media-famous “presidential selfie girls,” said after the event she appreciated parts of Santorum’s message but didn’t agree with everything.

“I think it’s simplistic to say that you have to have a two-parent household and that kind of stuff,” she said.

But St. Anselm freshman Tyler Glass was impressed. Nobody else is talking about the nuclear family at the Republican debates, Glass said. “He should be getting a lot more support than he currently is.”

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