As a man in the audience pointed out, it took a while for Republican Party presidential hopeful Rick Santorum to state "the central issue" of the 2012 campaign Thursday night at the River Hills Country Club.
It's the economy, said Santorum, 53, who added that while other candidates might talk about "jobs, jobs, jobs," what sets him apart is his other message.
About 120 people attended the joint meeting of the York County Republican Party and Republican Women's club, where Santorum spoke largely on the need to restore America's "core values" and protect the family and church from an assault from "the Left."
"Something fundamental is at stake in this election," he said.
"It's not just about the economy, national security or even about the 'right to life.' "
It's whether Americans would be able to pass on the same America they inherited, one founded on the idea that "rights come from a creator," he said.
The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania also derided President Barack Obama's health care overhaul frequently throughout his talk. He pledged to repeal it completely.
When audience members asked him to go deeper on his stance on taxation, education and the economy, Santorum shifted to those topics.
One man said without a plan for the economy, nothing else matters.
Santorum said passing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution, reviving manufacturing, and repealing health care reform were his top priorities. But he emphasized that he would be a leader who would remind Americans of their identity.
"We need a leader to remind us of who we are," he said. "The greatness of Ronald Reagan was not his policies. He reminded us of who we are."
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