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Tea partiers gather in Greensburg to hear Santorum's call to action

| Sunday, April 18, 2010

Former Republican senator Rick Santorum attempted yesterday to enlist tea party members in an electoral crusade against the Obama administration, which, he broadly suggested, was turning away from historic American values.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 1,000 tea party conservatives, Santorum, now with Fox News, implored his listeners to get involved in the campaign of Republican Tim Burns against Democrat Mark Critz for the seat in Congress left vacant by the death of John Murtha.

"This race is your moment," Santorum said. "This is your time to be a true patriot. I beg you to give that last measure of devotion. Get involved in that election."

At a time when many national Republicans appear hesitant to embrace the tea party movement, Santorum declared he was a "tea party person." Ousted from the Senate by Democrat Bob Casey Jr. in 2006, Santorum appears to be mounting a comeback at the very highest level of politics. He has spent time in both New Hampshire and Iowa, states where the race for the White House traditionally begins.

Santorum told the crowd he would be in New Hampshire later this week.

Yesterday's rally was the third such event staged by the Southwest PA tea party. The rally crowd at the former Boquet airstrip in Penn Township was discernibly smaller than the one held at Bushy Run Battlefield in September. Organizers blamed plunging temperatures and the opening of trout season.

Nevertheless, Melinda Donnelly, a Greensburg chiropractor credited with pulling the event together, said she was pleased with the turnout. The next rally is slated for July 3.

Both Donnelly and her husband, Darin, who emceed yesterday's rally, reiterated their position that the tea party was not affiliated with the Republican Party but represented conservatism and stood for voter education.

Besides Santorum, other prominent Republicans on hand for yesterday's rally were state Sen. Kim Ward, former Westmoreland County Republican chairman George Dunbar and congressional candidate Burns. In addition, there was a sprinkling of Republican committee men and women in the crowd.

The crowd was dotted with homemade signs, ranging from "Obama is a liar and a communist" to several that criticized U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pittsburgh.

The person behind the anti-Doyle posters was Lisa Mears of Monroeville, who was attending her sixth tea party rally and who was angry at Doyle because, she said, it was Doyle who helped persuade Rep. Bart Stupak of Minnesota to agree to a pro-life compromise that opened the door to health care reform in the House last month.

Among other things, Mears put in a plug for the Bush administration tax cuts that are set to expire and for something she called a "fair tax," described as a "value-added tax" on new goods only. "Forty-seven percent of people pay no taxes," Mears said. "I highly support the fair tax."

Jeff Kuhner, a Washington, D.C. radio personality who has substituted for conservative radio commentator Michael Savage, roused the crowd with a statement that President Obama planned to "grant amnesty" to 20 million illegal immigrants in order to expand his "electoral shock troops."

Later, Kuhner said, "Mr. Obama, this is not Kenya, this is not Indonesia."

In the tea party ranks, Kuhner professed to "see a rising conservative army. ... Come November he will hear from us."

Santorum said he was "content" with life outside the Senate but felt compelled in recent months to return to a more visible public presence because of the actions of Obama.

"This is gut check time in our country," said Santorum, who likened the present to June 1940 and U.S. neutrality in the teeth of Germany aggression in Europe. Now, he said, was the time to get off the sidelines.

"The Bible says we are all creatures of God," Santorum continued. "Our founders recognized that. Barack Obama doesn't see it that way."

Linking the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the Obama administration, Santorum said "Barack Obama has assaulted the American soul."

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