Of the four remaining GOP candidates, Senator Rick Santorum was the only candidate to attend the Wisconsin GOP Presidential Primary Dinner in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 31st. Senator Santorum opened the evening applauding conservative Wisconsinites for their support of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. He also commended Wisconsin for all its great “beer, brats and cheese curds.”

The conversation quickly adjusted, as Senator Santorum went on to discuss the founding principles that make our nation great, and how those principles are something to be proud of. “We’ve inspired greatness and liberty, all over the globe,” he said. Continuing to emphasize America as a “shining city on a hill,” Senator Santorum pointed out what most Americans have noticed in the Obama administration: “We have a President who goes around that globe and apologizes for America. Never under our administration – never will we apologize for this great nation.” Wisconsinites erupted in applause at Santorum’s distaste for President Obama’s apologetic demeanor.

Senator Santorum also touched on the historical healthcare debate in the Supreme Court. “I know we have a lot of folks that talk about the economy, the economy, the economy- and I do. The economy’s important. It’s obviously important what the growth rate, unemployment rate, the size and scale of the deficit; these are all huge issues. But they are driven by government’s huge expansion- huge dictatorial presence within our economy and within our lives. How heartening was it to see those Supreme Court Justices talk about limits of federal power, talk about how Obamacare would fundamentally change the relationship between the people and their government, because indeed, it would. But we are a great county; we are a unique country in the history of the world because we understand where our rights come from, and that the governments role is not to create new rights. When the government gives you rights, as we have seen with Obamacare, they can tell you how to exercise those rights or threaten to take them if you don’t do what you are told. That is a government that is no longer serving people. That is a government where now people become subjects to crown– to the new crown of the bureaucracy in Washington. Do you want to know what’s at stake in this election? That is what’s at stake.”

Senator Santorum strived to win over conservative Wisconsinites by adverting to Wisconsin’s conservative Governor Scott Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. “You could have nominated a moderate for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Representatives. But you chose a conservative for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Senators to lead you.” He went on to praise Wisconsinites saying, “That is why Wisconsin is so important. Fighting the hard left, big government America. You have stood tall; you have fought and continue to fight.” Santorum suggested that in order to win this election, we are going to need bold contrast between the GOP candidate and incumbent Barack Obama, suggesting that he is the champion conservative among the GOP candidates and therefore the strongest contrast to Obama. “Americans are not looking for luke-warm right now. They’re looking for bold contrasting colors. They’re looking for someone, at a difficult time in American history, who isn’t going to manage Washington, but is going to transform it with a passion, with a zeal that can motivate and lift up the American people.”

Senator Santorum concluded his speech urging Wisconsin residents to stand with conservative leaders everywhere, praising Wisconsin voters for supporting conservative state representatives while urging voters to follow the same action in the nation. Wisconsin has another opportunity to speak, Santorum reminded the audience,  “And so I ask the people, here in this room, each and every one of you for your support. I ask you to shake things up and let the people across this country know that Wisconsin stands, not just with your Governor and Lt. Governor, but you stand for the principles that they stand for, not just here in this state but for the same kind of scale of change that we need in Washington DC. That’s why I ask for your vote. I ask you to walk out of here and not just vote for us, but over the next three days, shake this place up. Get us votes; have them come out on Tuesday. Wisconsin will, again, lead this county.”

April 3, 2012 is certainly an important day in Wisconsin and the nation. Recent endorsements for Governor Mitt Romney prove today’s primary in Wisconsin to be pivotal to the continuation of GOP campaigning. Senator Santorum appeared unafraid of these recent developments, stating that people are asking him, “’Well how are you doing it, how do you win 11 states and get outspent collectively 10-1?’” Drawing connections between himself and President Ronald Reagan, Santorum answered all those who inquire: “Win 11 states? That’s as many as Ronald Reagan won in 1976 when the last conservative insurgent tried to take on the establishment candidate. How do you do it? You touch the chords that Reagan touched. Not because they’re Reagan’s. It’s because they’re ours; they’re America.”

After his speech at the Primary Dinner, we were fortunate enough to catch up with the Senator for a few questions specifically pertaining to college- aged students.

We’ve recently seen a drop in supporters for Obama at the college level. Do you have any plans for picking up college-aged voters?

“I think our message is pretty strong and clear. It’s one of a whole different vision for our future. One of the things that (at least that I remember from my college days) is that folks in college are looking for that vision, they’re looking for something that maybe matches that hope for an idealistic future. I think President Obama has certainly trampled on that vision with obviously the economy- that’s been struggling under him and also just the divisiveness and lack of cohesiveness and unity we see in our country- I think that’s discouraging for a lot of folks in college, and hopefully our vision is one that they can buy into- which is the basic American vision.”

College students and teenagers are being hit especially hard with unemployment. What’s your economic plan for our younger generation coming up?

“That’s the fun thing about our plan. We reduce taxes obviously but we focus on two areas of the economy. One is energy- and the energy sector of the economy. So there would be a tremendous amount of jobs created in that sector, and that’s job opportunities for people up and down the ladder in everything from engineers to management to obviously people out there on the line. But in addition to energy, manufacturing is another key. And that has a huge multiplier affect on the economy and again, the great thing about manufacturing jobs- yeah, there’s a lot of jobs for blue collar people. But there’s a lot of jobs in processing, engineering, benefits, and human resources. And so again: If you get the economy stoked up, and you get those two sectors of the economy going. The multiplier effect for all the supportive services that add to making things here in America will create much higher and much better employment.”

What do you think sets you apart from the other candidates?

“I think we’ve proven to be the candidate that doesn’t have their policies written on an Etch-A-Sketch. Governor Romney says he’s going to run as a conservative; I am a conservative. Our values have been out there and have been consistent. I think we draw the sharpest contrast. As I said inside, we win elections when we have the sharpest contrast; we lose when there isn’t much contrast.”

Danielle Cleveland| Carthage College | Kenosha, Wisconsin