It was standing room only in 106 HUB-Robeson Center Monday night, where presidential candidate Rick Santorum returned to campus to address students at his alma mater.
After spending some time at the Grange Fair in Centre Hall, Pa the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania told students why he wants their support in his run for the White House, come November 2012.
“This place has changed a bit since 1980, and it’s amazing to see the tremendous developments,” he said. “I’m excited to hold the Penn State winning tradition.”
Santorum addressed a crowd of about 60, made up mostly of students from the Penn State College of Republicans, the organization he founded in 1977. Students sat around a table, stood along walls and even lined up in the hallway just to hear what the presidential candidate had to say.
Soon after camera phones stopped flashing, Santorum commented on his fourth place finish in the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa, saying he “did much better than expected” and hopes to succeed in the presidential election — a race that’s still “wide open,” as he sees it.
After introducing himself and his platform, which advocates for a limited role for the government, Santorum spent about an hour answering questions from the audience.
Questions stemmed from the topic of nuclear power, which Santorum supports, to handling more natural disasters, which he said should be left to local governments.
One audience member, who sat in the hallway, asked Santorum about his plan for dealing with the war in Afghanistan.
Santorum responded by criticizing the timeline for the scheduled withdrawal of troops. He called the timing of the withdrawal “reprehensible” because of its proximity to election season.
“It’s given the enemy hope, the one thing you want to rob them of,” he said. “I would never as a president set a goal other than one goal—success. Not a timeline, but success. What the president did is sacrifice lives and the livelihood of Americans around a poll objective.”
He also took aim at “ObamaCare,” and, addressing the room, said Barack Obama is “using you fools.”
“I encourage all of you to really study how the federal government is sticking it to young people,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Santorum announced several plans for improving government and the economy by keeping deflation low and bringing back the manufacturing base in the country.
He announced a plan for cutting the manufacturing tax to zero in an effort to create more jobs in the country and bringing them back from overseas.
When talk about the economy ended, debate ensued from Santorum’s stance on same-sex marriage — he described marriage as a “privilege given out by government” instead of a “right” only to be shared between a male and female.
And after Santorum made a reference to second graders learning about sex between same-sex couples, Penn State student Ashley Kirby spoke up.
Kirby (graduate-law) challenged Santorum on his stance and proceeded to ask him whether he was a doctor or psychologist — questioning whether he was qualified to determine if children of same-sex couples are adversely affected.
As both debate and discussion came to a close, Santorum thanked his audience for their participation.
Chris Riccio (junior-accounting) said Santorum came off “very polished” and definitely brought patriotism to the crowd.
And Samuel Settle, Chairman of the Penn State chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, said he was impressed that Santorum took the time to answer so many questions.
“I was happy he took the time to speak in such length,” Settle (senior-political science) said. “The fact that he took the less popular stance sometimes was also impressive.”