Santorum warns Colorado Republicans about addictive entitlements, socialism

The Colorado Statesman

There was spaghetti and chicken parmesan on the tables, but red meat was on the menu at a fundraising luncheon thrown by the state Republican Party on Wednesday at a downtown Denver restaurant.

State GOP Chairman Ryan Call, left, visits with political consultant Sean Duffy and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum outside a state Republican fundraising luncheon on April 6 at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant in downtown Denver.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
Potential GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, tells a gathering of Colorado Republicans that the American way of life is at stake in the next election.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
State Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call holds an American flag picture on his iPhone aloft so Republicans can say the pledge of allegiance. To his left in the reflection, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, state party Secretary Perry Buck and Ken Buck, recite the pledge.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
State Rep. Libby Szabo, R-Arvada, left, and event host Cindy Webb listen to former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum as former Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Fruita, looks on from the adjacent table.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton talks with potential presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, confers with Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, as Capitol Club host Tim Gilmore looks on.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman
One-time rivals for Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senate nomination Ken Buck, left, and Ryan Frazier catch up at the GOP luncheon.
Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman

Potential presidential candidate Rick Santorum — who lost his Pennsylvania Senate seat in 2006 but has been raising his profile as a devout conservative in the last year — warned a crowd of about 100 Republicans that the country they grew up in could vanish if Democrats keep the White House in the next election.

Nodding to Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who lost a close U.S. Senate race last year to Democrat Michael Bennet, Santorum told the crowd he hadn’t been sure what he’d find when he ventured to Colorado.

“This was a state that didn’t go quite the way we hoped — it wasn’t just Colorado, it was everything west of the Mississippi,” he said. “Would I come into a group that was sort of flat and not energized, or would the fire still be burning?” He said he was happy to see the state GOP’s enthusiasm because, he said, this is a serious time.

“You’re going to be in the center of it — you’re one of those purple states that can swing either way and are going to decide who the next President of the United States is going to be.” And the stakes, Santorum said, couldn’t be higher. “What America is about, the core of who America is, is hanging in the balance,” he said.

Santorum related the story of his grandfather, who immigrated from Italy because he yearned for the freedom America promised. But Democrats, he said, are attempting to engineer “a fundamental shift,” and could turn the country into a European-style socialist state in the next few years if they aren’t checked.

“If we do not win this election and ‘Obamacare’ goes into effect, America as you know it, as you were given it by your parents and grandparents — America will be gone forever,” he said. “That’s what I believe is at stake. America as you know it will be gone.”

The reason Obama’s health care plan threatens the American way of life, Santorum said, is that “once the government has control over your life, over your health, it’s almost impossible to get it back, almost impossible to get freedom back.”

It’s part of the Democrats’ plan, he said. Fox News commentator Juan Williams boiled it down for him, Santorum said. Last year, after Scott Brown’s election to the Senate from Massachusetts threw Washington off kilter, Obama went into high gear to pass the health care bill, which had been floundering in Congress for months.

“Barack Obama decided to plow forward on health care reform, against all the polls, against the will of the people going against them, Barack Obama doubled down, ignored high unemployment, doing anything about the economy, ignored and focused like a laser beam on trying to get this health care bill passed. Why?” Santorum asked. “Why would you do anything like that?”

The answer, Santorum said Williams told him, is that Democratic leaders knew that Americans love entitlements, and that by turning health care into an entitlement the die would be cast. “Once we get them hooked on this entitlement, they will never let it go,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi believed, according to Williams.

That’s what outraged Santorum and helped pull him back into the political arena, he said.

“Think about how they view you,” he told the crowd of Republicans. “They view you no different than the drug dealer views the little kid in the school yard. They want to get you hooked, they want to get you dependent. They want to get you relying upon them for your wellbeing. And once they’ve satisfied you, giving them that drug, that narcotic, then you’ll be reliant on them and, by the way, you’ll also be less than what God created you to be.”

The crowd thundered applause. Santorum talked about statistical proof of American exceptionalism — arguing that life expectancy didn’t increase for thousands of years until America was founded, and then it doubled in 200 years — but kept returning to the importance of next year’s election.

It’s not enough to preach to committed Republicans and conservatives, Santorum said. “You all need to go out and build your own choir, all over this state, so when 2012 rolls around, you are ready to battle for America’s soul. That’s what’s at stake.”

Santorum wasn’t the only star in the overstuffed banquet hall at Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant. (Chairman Ryan Call promised to reserve a bigger room for the next event.) Luminaries included former U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez, former Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, State Board of Education member Peggy Littleton, and a slew of state legislators, some of whom arrived late because of business at the Capitol. Party officials included Call, Vice Chairman Don Ytterberg, party secretary Perry Buck, former Vice Chairman Leondray Gholston and Republican National Committeewoman Lily Nuñez.

The lunch launched the state GOP’s new Capitol Club, a monthly fundraising endeavor Call promised would showcase leading Republicans from around the country.

Ernest@coloradostatesman.com