Santorum links Mandela apartheid fight to Obamacare

Former U.S. Republican Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, on March 15, 2013.  NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Rick Santorum, a former and possibly future Republican presidential candidate, offered a tribute to Nelson Mandela that linked the late South African leader's fight against apartheid to the battle over Obamacare.

Both struggles - one involving racial segregation and the other expansion of government as seen in President Obama's 2010 healthcare law - were against "great injustices," Santorum said on Fox News after Mandela's death Thursday night.

"Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that, and that's the reason he is mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed," the former Pennsylvania senator said on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor."

"And I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that."

Santorum, a champion of the Christian right and family values, presented himself as a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.

He won 11 states in the 2012 primary season but had his share of gaffes, including when he said he did not care about the U.S. unemployment rate in a campaign largely focused on the sputtering economy.

Santorum has not ruled out another presidential run in 2016, and he clearly had elections on his mind Thursday night.

"The center focus of the 2014 election must be Obamacare," he said on Fox, referring to next year's congressional races. 

Santorum faced some blowback online for the comparison. 

“Comparing apartheid — the systematic, institutionalized segregation of the black population of South Africa — to Obamacare — the signature legislative achievement of the United States’ first black president — is among the worst reactions by conservatives to the news of Mandela’s passing,” according to the liberal blog ThinkProgress.

Author and commentator Andrew Sullivan wrote on Twitter, “Santorum’s mind is simply unhinged; his reflexive need to describe anything Obama has done as evil is a sickness.”

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