Santorum defends World War II 2012 election comparison

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at the Christ Redeemer Church, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, in Cumming, Ga. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at the Christ Redeemer Church, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, in Cumming, Ga.
AP Photo/Eric Gay
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum flatly rejected suggestions that he likened President Obama to Adolf Hitler Sunday when he used an analogy comparing the 2012 election to the buildup to World War II.

"No, of course not," Santorum said dismissively when asked by a National Journal-CBS News reporter whether he was comparing the two. "The World War II metaphor is one I've used 100 times in my career," he insisted.

But the comparison is a recent addition to Santorum's presidential campaign strategy, and it emerged as a theme in his speeches in the Midwest over the past few days.

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During an event in Cumming, Ga., on Sunday evening, he discussed Americans' uncertainty about entering the war because they hoped Hitler might not be as dangerous as they feared.

"We're a hopeful people," Santorum said. "We think, 'Well, you know it'll get better. Yeah, he's a nice guy. I mean, it won't be near as bad as what we think. This will be okay.' I mean, yeah, maybe he's not the best guy after a while, after a while you find out some things about this guy over in Europe who's not so good of a guy after all. You know what, why do we need to be involved?" Santorum said.

Americans need to get involved in the upcoming election, he said, in the same way they needed to get involved in fighting Hitler in World War II.

"So with the optimistic spirit of America, sometimes, sometimes it's not okay. It'll be harder for this generation to figure it out. There's no cataclysmic event," he said.

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    Rebecca Kaplan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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