Santorum blasts Obama’s motives on power, abortion

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, says the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign stop Tuesday at the Maricopa County Lincoln Day Luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona.

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, says the Pledge of Allegiance during a campaign stop Tuesday at the Maricopa County Lincoln Day Luncheon in Phoenix, Arizona.

PHOENIX (AP) — A surging Rick Santorum is making increasingly harsh remarks about President Barack Obama, questioning not just the president’s competence but his motives and even his Christian values.

Mitt Romney also is sharpening his anti-Obama rhetoric. He said Tuesday the president governs with “a secular agenda” that hurts religious freedom. In general, however, the former Massachusetts governor has not seriously challenged Obama’s motives, often saying the president is decent but inept.

But Santorum and Newt Gingrich have heightened their claims that Obama’s intentions are not always benign, ahead of Wednesday’s televised GOP presidential debate and next week’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who suddenly is threatening Romney in his native state of Michigan, says Obama cares only about power, not the “interests of people.” He says “Obamacare,” the health care overhaul Obama enacted, includes a “hidden message” about the president’s disregard for impaired fetuses, which might be aborted.

Santorum even seemed to compare Obama to Adolf Hitler, although he denies trying to do so.

Santorum’s remarks have gotten only scattered attention because he weaves them into long, sometimes rambling speeches. Romney’s team is monitoring Santorum’s comments, privately suggesting they could hurt him in a general election.

Some of Santorum’s remarks echo attacks on Obama during the 2008 presidential race, when critics portrayed him as a mysterious politician with hidden motives and questionable allegiance to the United States. More recent examples include:

•Saturday in Columbus, Ohio, Santorum criticized Obama for requiring health insurance plans to cover prenatal testing. He said such tests lead to “more abortions and therefore less care that has to be done, because we cull the ranks of the disabled in our society. That too is part of Obamacare, another hidden message as to what President Obama thinks of those who are less able than the elites who want to govern our country.”

Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said “prenatal screenings are essential to promote the health of both the mother and baby and to ensure safe deliveries.”

•On Monday in Steubenville, Ohio, Santorum said Obama “talks about how he’s going to help manufacturing, after he systematically destroyed it. You pick any area. Financial services. One after another, where he has this ideology of government-centralized control. Not worried about the interests of people. He’s worried about the interest of power so he can dictate to people what he believes is best.”

Independent analysts say U.S. manufacturing was in steep decline before Obama took office in 2009. Many economists credit Obama’s stimulus packages with keeping the job losses from being considerably worse.

•Also in Steubenville, Santorum said Obama encourages a trend in which the church, religious-affiliated colleges and civic institutions grow weaker while government grows stronger.

“We all know that one of the ways that government has been able to accumulate power is to do so by weakening the institutions that people rely upon,” he said. “When they can rely upon them, these stable, mediating institutions in our culture, they don’t need government.”

“That’s why it’s not surprising to see the president’s assault on, first, charities,” Santorum said. “You recall one of his first tax proposals was to limit charitable deductions — charitable deductions to those mediating institutions,” which include colleges, churches and civic organizations.

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