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Santorum urges GOP to appeal to working-class voters

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, seen here speaking to the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa in August, has his eye on the 2016 presidential race.
AP Photo/Justin Hayworth

Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., urged Republicans to more aggressively court working-class voters during a speech in Iowa on Saturday, implying that 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who defeated Santorum to claim the nomination, lost in part because he did not speak to the concerns of the have-nots.

"We can't just celebrate the job-creators," Santorum said at the 2013 Family Leadership Summit, a gathering of Christian conservatives in Ames, Iowa, according to an audio recording provided by Radio Iowa. "We have to celebrate the job-holders, and we have to have a message for them."

Many working-class voters, he added, "don't want to vote for President Obama, but at least he went out and talked to them. He talked about them."

Santorum noted that the 2012 Republican convention featured numerous successful business owners, but not one regular employee was given a speaking slot.

"We need to reject this idea that if we build the economy, all boats will rise," he said. "We need to talk about people who have holes in their boats because we all do."

Of course, it wasn't all bread-and-butter issues for Santorum, who has fashioned a reputation as an ardent social conservative willing to wade into the culture war even when other Republicans avoid it.

He was recently named the CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Dallas-based production company that makes "faith and family-friendly entertainment," and he used his speech to bemoan the success liberals have had at influencing pop culture.

Progressives, he said, are the predominant "story-tellers" in today's media because they have successfully infiltrated Hollywood to propagate their chosen values and messages. And if Christian conservatives hope to turn the tide, he said, they need to stop being "passive" and allowing the media to portray them as strange.

"Who tells the stories to your children and to you in America - people like you?" He asked. "Who's creating the moral imagination for the future of our country?"

Amid speculation that he's preparing for another presidential run in 2016, Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, did not rule out another presidential bid, only saying he has "a lot of faith, still, in the people of Iowa in 2016 and beyond."

Other speakers at the summit include billionaire reality television star Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.