Santorum Turns Off Young Voters At Lincoln Day Dinner

BOWLING GREEN, OHIO – Two candidates. Two messages. Two very different back-to-back speeches.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are both running for President on the Republican ticket, but in some ways, the two couldn’t be more opposite. The stark difference between the candidates has never been more apparent than when the two men addressed the Fifth Congressional District Republicans at a Lincoln Day dinner at Bowling Green University in Bowling Green Ohio on Saturday night.

Gingrich’s message focused entirely on energy and oil and natural gas industry’s ability to turn around not only our nation’s economy, but Ohio and Michigan’s as well.

Bowling Green is near the Ohio-Michigan border is only about an hour and a half from Detroit. Northwest Ohio is home to many companies that manufacture parts and provide valuable services to the auto companies. The regional economy is tied to the success or failure of the dying American auto industry.

Little of what Gingrich said to the group of more than 750 area Republicans was “news.” The bulk of the speech was made up of Gingrich’s usual talking points on the subject – his plans to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and replace it with an Environmental Solutions Agency, the need to make America energy independent so that ‘no American President ever bows to a Saudi King again,’ a promise to bring down the price of gas to $2.50 if elected.

One of his better bits was a story I had not previously heard Gingrich tell about the day Cain endorsed him. Gingrich said Cain told him that day he had figured out the President’s 999 plan. “He wants all of us to pay nine dollars and ninety nine cents for gas, “ Newt repeated.

And Rick Santorum? Santorum spent most of his speech talking about the inextricable link between the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence and how the Declaration is the source of our God given rights. He said France’s failure to tie its constitution to God after the French revolution is the source of many of its current problems.

“We declared the truth – that all men are created equal with unalienable rights, endowed by their creator,” Santorum said.

Santorum did discuss other pressing issues of the day, but only in passing. Santorum said he would balance the budget in his first term if elected – not in his second term “or some fuzzy date in the future” and vowed not to cut military spending.

Gingrich’s speech may have been the more boring of the two, but for the specific audience, Gingrich was right on point.

As one young person I talked to after the event said, Gingrich’s speech was ‘informational,’ while Santorum’s speech was ‘inspirational.’

Natalie Fisher, a 20 year-old resident of Oregon, Ohio who said she had not yet decided who she would vote for in Tuesday’s primary, said she actually liked Gingrich’s speech better than Santorum’s because of the historical context he provided and because his speech applied more to her day-to-day life than Santorum’s abstract speech about freedom.

But Andy Jones, Chair of the BG College Republicans, didn’t find Santorum’s speech inspirational as much as he found it utterly devoid of any usefully information.

“Santorum used God too much in his speech. If he wants to be elected President he needs to go more with a civil discourses than a kind of a faith discourse,” he said. “I’m a Catholic and I support a lot of the things he’s doing, but it’s not for a President to do.”

Jones, a Ron Paul supporter, said he thought Gingrich gave a good speech on energy, and he also wished Santorum had focused his speech more on tangible issues.

“We don’t even know much about his jobs plans or his energy policies. All we know about is his social issues and his faith. That’s all we really know about him,” Jones said.

Jones’ comments are a reflection of a growing number of young Republicans who think economic issues are more vital to the future of our country than social issues. The GOP candidates’ inability to communicate with a younger demographic was apparent from the makeup of the audience. Only about 20 of the 750+ attendees appeared to be under the age of 30, or as one BG College Republican whose name I didn’t catch commented, “I looked around this room tonight and saw a bunch of people who were about to die.”

Not the most tactful phrasing, but a valid point nonetheless that the Republican Party and candidates like Rick Santorum should consider.

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