Santorum: Democrats are "anti-science," not me

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at Froehlich's Classic Corner Feb. 20, 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio. AP Photo

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at Froehlich's Classic Corner Feb. 20, 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at Froehlich's Classic Corner Feb. 20, 2012, in Steubenville, Ohio.
AP Photo
STEUBENVILLE, Ohio - Portraying himself as a native son of Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum Monday emphasized his heritage as the grandson of a coal miner and railed against environmental regulations that have diminished the coal industry in the region.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we need someone who understands, who comes from the coal fields, who comes from the steel mills, who understands what average working people in America need to be able to provide for themselves and their families," Santorum said to a crowd of about 500 people in the Democratic-leaning eastern edge of the state.

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Santorum's claim to have come "from the coal fields" is a stretch - by two generations. He has never worked in a coal mine. His parents' professions were psychologist and nurse, and Santorum is a lawyer who has spent all of his adult life in politics.

But he frequently invokes his grandfather, who worked in the auto factories of Detroit and then the coal mines of Western Pennsylvania after he immigrated to the United States from Italy.

In his remarks Monday, Santorum went beyond his usual discussion of the importance of increasing domestic energy production to deliver a blistering attack on environmental activists. He said global warming claims are based on "phony studies," and that climate change science is little more than "political science."

His views are not "anti-science" as Democrats claim, Santorum said. "When it comes to the management of the Earth, they are the anti-science ones. We are the ones who stand for science, and technology, and using the resources we have to be able to make sure that we have a quality of life in this country and (that we) maintain a good and stable environment," he said to applause, and cited local ordinances to reduce coal dust pollution in Pittsburgh during the heyday of coal mining.

Santorum also discussed religious faith and the importance of family at length, a popular topic for him in many of the Midwestern states he has visited recently. He accused President Obama of degrading the institution of marriage with provisions in his health care law.

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"You realize that if you're married under Obamacare, you pay a lot more than if you're living together under Obamacare. A lot more. Thousands of dollars more, for the average American family who pay if you're married," he said. "If you divorced and live together, Obamacare gives you a break and they do this on other areas of the government. That's what the marriage penalty was all about, for years."

  • Rebecca Kaplan On Twitter»

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

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