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The Boston Globe

Politics

Santorum makes final appeal for Michigan votes

LANSING, Mich. -- Rick Santorum appealed to supporters for “a game-changing day” in a pivotal primary that could further reshape the dynamics of the topsy-turvy contest for the GOP’s presidential nomination.

“Tomorrow is going to be a big day,” Santorum told a packed ballroom today at a Lansing hotel.

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“You have the chance to be the inflection point in this race. Don’t miss the opportunity to stand up. And don’t believe those who say we can’t elect someone who is conservative, that we have to elect a moderate,” said Santorum, who cast himself as the “authentic” candidate in what has become a two-man race for Michigan against Mitt Romney.

Santorum again called Romney’s claim of conservatism laughable. “Michigan you have the opportunity to stop the joke,” Santorum said, “to tell the truth about who the real conservative is.”

With Michigan voters going to the polls tomorrow, Santorum cast himself as the candidate who can deliver hope and optimism to a country beleaguered by high unemployment, soaring gas prices and the constant uncertainty over a slow economic recovery.

And he said he was better positioned to reset the country’s course by pursuing as president “not some minor change, but a real fundamental change,” suggesting that Romney represented an incremental shift from the policies of President Obama.

If Republicans want to beat Obama in November, he said, it won’t be won by the candidate with the largest war chest and not by “pummeling their opponents state by state. … What’s going to work is a candidate who has a vision for America.”

Santorum crossed the state from east to west today, beginning his day in Livonia, a suburb of Detroit, for a breakfast meeting with members of a regional chamber of commerce. Later in the day, he addressed an enthusiastic crowd in Lansing before embarking for Kalamazoo, deep in the heart of the Michigan’s conservative country. There, hundreds of supporters lined up outside the Heritage Christian Academy in the bitter cold for entrance to the standing-room only event. Police and event organizers had to turn away dozens of people from the speech.

At stops in Livonia and Lansing, Santorum said he would deliver the economy back to health and put the country back on course. He delved into the major touchstones of his campaign – simplifying the tax code, halving the corporate tax, reforming Social Security, and repealing Obamacare. He portrayed himself as the true conservative and the more qualified candidate for president.

He pounced on Romney’s support of the Wall Street bailout and opposition to the government’s intervention to aid the auto industry. “At least I was consistent,” said Santorum, who opposed both.

But Santorum spent most of his time today aiming barbs at Obama, and only occasionally referred to Romney – usually not by name, but as the other candidate or as the former Massachusetts governor.

“We need leadership to take us on a different path,” Santorum said, to “find a way out … instead of driving us deeper and deeper into the abyss.”

Santorum railed against Obama for what the former Pennsylvania senator considered failed energy policies. Santorum blamed those policies for high gas prices and stifling job creation. And he took shots against Obama’s positions on the country’s entitlement programs.

If the president were among the founding fathers, Santorum said, “he would have written the Declaration of Dependence.”

During his speeches, he also faulted Romney for buying into what Santorum suggested was the myth of man-made global warming, saying that Romney as governor put in place caps on carbon emissions. Santorum said global warming was based on “political science.”

Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at bobby.calvan@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @GlobeCalvan.

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