Santorum amplifies faith in way GOP rivals don't

By Brian Bakst

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 10 2012 5:41 a.m. MST

"His values are my values," said Valerie Benton, a retired teacher from Edmond, Okla. "It's not like he's forcing his beliefs on anybody."

Such empathy shows through when Santorum employs what has become a favorite rhetorical device. He fondly quotes the Declaration of Independence to stress America was a nation founded on faith and its people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." He lowers his own voice when he gets to "Creator" and his crowds fill it in with gusto.

Santorum scoffs at suggestions that his focus should be elsewhere in a race driven by economic issues. "Strong families and building a strong family unit is good for the economy," he'll say.

As the campaign moves on, Santorum shows no signs of altering his message. His first stop after his three-state sweep was a gathering of Texas pastors. They laid their hands on the candidate to pray for his future success and for the continued health of his youngest daughter, who was temporarily hospitalized for a respiratory illness a couple weeks ago.

Santorum told the pastors that he wasn't running to be pastor in chief, but he suggested that religion needed to play a bigger role in public life.

"You guys could do a little better than you are right now," Santorum told the pastors.

They erupted in laughter.

Associated Press writer Nomaan Merchant in McKinney, Texas, contributed to this report.

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