Santorum targeting southern Missouri before caucuses

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Presidential candidate Rick Santorum swung across conservative southern Missouri on Saturday, seeking to carry the momentum eastward from a big win in the neighboring Kansas caucuses by linking his chief Republican rivals to the policies of Democratic President Barack Obama.

Speaking from the sparkling clean factory floor of a security and firm alarm manufacturer, Santorum expressed alarm about Obama’s approach to Iran’s nuclear development, ridiculed Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s jobs plan as too complex and cast both Romney and Newt Gingrich as clones of Obama on health care and environmental issues.

Santorum took to the podium in Springfield just moments after being declared the winner of the Kansas caucuses.

“We’ve had a very, very good day in our neighboring state of Kansas,” Santorum told several hundred people at a rally hosted at Digital Monitoring Products.

Santorum easily carried Missouri’s non-binding presidential primary last month, when he was the only Republican candidate to campaign before the election. He pledged Saturday to return to Missouri a couple of times before it begins its lengthy caucus process next week that will culminate with 52 presidential delegates being awarded in April and June.

“Missouri gave us a huge, huge shot in the arm a few weeks back,” Santorum said to applause. But “as you know, the job is not done — you make us work twice as hard here in Missouri to get the job done.”

Neither Romney nor Gingrich has campaigned in Missouri this year. But Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul has tried to mobilize supporters for Missouri’s caucuses. He campaigned last month in Kansas City, and was speaking at events Saturday in St. Charles and Springfield.

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