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In Fort Worth, Santorum says GOP fails to connect with working class

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FORT WORTH — In a North Texas speech on Monday, GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum criticized the Republican party for failing to connect with poor and working-class voters. 

The Democratic Party has done a better job than the Republican Party connecting with low-income voters frustrated by a persistent “wealth gap,” Santorum told a crowd of roughly 100 at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth held at the Fort Worth Club..  

“If you listen to Republicans, they never talk about workers. They’re always talking about businesses. They’re always talking about economic growth,” Santorum said. “They’re not talking about, ‘What are we going to do to help individual workers?”  

“We have one party that goes out and talks about these issues all the time, talks about the problems we’re facing, goes out and shows compassion,” the former Pennsylvania senator added. “Then they go out and make it worse. These programs that are intended to help actually make things worse.”  

Santorum spent most of his speech unveiling his new tax proposal, the “20/20 Flat Tax,” which he said is intended to help working class and middle class Americans. Santorum said he would establish a 20 percent individual tax rate across the board for all income streams. All itemized deductions would be eliminated, he said, except for charitable giving and mortgage interest of up to $25,000 a year. 

Santorum said he would make up for the decrease in tax revenue by repealing the Affordable Care Act. 

Santorum told the crowd his experience and willingness to compromise set him apart in a crowded Republican field — especially in comparison to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the candidate with the most visible links to Texas. 

“There’s no bones about it, you don’t really see anyone in Washington, D.C., right now as effective,” Santorum told The Texas Tribune after the event. Cruz and other senators, he said, spend much of their time “politically posturing.” 

“That may excite your base, but in the end, it’s not going to get the job done,” Santorum said. “And it’s not going to win this election.” 

In an op-ed outlining the plan for the Wall Street Journal, Santorum called out Cruz’s lack of experience and suggested Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina all share “outsider” status. 

“The stakes for America are too high for the GOP to nominate untested newcomers, first-term senators or governors without proven national results,” he wrote. 

Santorum has been a regular visitor to Texas in the years since his 2012 presidential run. Before embarking on his current campaign, Santorum spent a few days a week in Texas in his capacity as CEO of EchoLight Studios, a Christian movie distributor, according to spokesman Matt Beynon. 

And Patriot Voices — a PAC Santorum founded with his wife, Karen, in 2012 — has also been active in Texas politics. The PAC issued endorsements for Gov.  Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton last year. 

Santorum also visited the Dallas-Fort Worth area in early July for a series of fundraisers and meet-the-voter events. 

After Monday’s speech, Richard Ellis, a pastor at Reunion Church in Dallas who describes himself as a Santorum campaign supporter, said the candidate’s consistent record makes him stand out. 

“His stance on families, abortion, marriage — he’s one of the most consistent guys in the race,” Ellis said. “I know Texans will appreciate that.” 

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2015/10/12/santorum-gop-fails-connect-working-class/.

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