Government
6:44 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Santorum Stops at a Carnegie Diner, Vows to Stay in the Race

Many of the people eating at Bob's Diner in Carnegie weren't expecting to see a presidential candidate on Wednesday, but several said they were pleasantly surprised to see Rick Santorum there, eating breakfast and chatting with customers.

The former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator is banking on a win in the state's April 24 primary, and has repeatedly said he will not back down, even amid calls from within his own party to do so, including a suggestion from Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) that he gracefully bow out. Santorum responded to questions of whether or not he can endure several more weeks of calls to withdraw.

"I think I've endured about 8 months of people saying that — everyone has been asking me, from the days driving around in the Chuck Truck in Iowa, to get out of the race. I've never been the establishment's candidate and that holds true today. That's nothing new."

But Santorum said a candidate stronger than Mitt Romney is needed to unseat President Barack Obama in the general election. At a Tuesday night rally, Santorum painted himself as the true conservative candidate, a characterization he echoed at Bob's Diner. Still, after the bruising loss of his Senate seat in 2006, some have questioned whether he can win in his native state. He said he's confident he can.

"It's a whole different environment," he said. "I think Pennsylvanians have seen the mistakes of what happened when you give control to the hard left in Washington, D.C., and you have very unpopular programs like Obamacare and Dodd/Frank that are harming the economy in Pennsylvania."

A small crowd did show up to the diner just for Santorum, and gathered outside. John Bonassi is a long-time Santorum supporter. The former Greentree mayor said he realizes there are some challenges, but he called Rick Santorum "a fighter."

"Certainly the odds are against him, he has to win Pennsylvania if, for no other reason, if you're going to bail out, bail out after you've won your own state. Then you bring capital to the table as someone who can possibly deliver Pennsylvania for the eventual nominee," said Bonassi.

That was echoed by Meryl Hatton of Finley Township. "They can count him out all they want. I'm not. They've counted him out before, but he came through."

Santorum is continuing his tour through Western Pennsylvania with stops in Hollidaysburg and Mechanicsburg Wednesday evening.