Two Republicans battling for Ohioans' votes agreed on at least one item Saturday evening - President Barack Obama must not be re-elected.
|A supporter holds a sign autographed by Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
"We have to make sure a Republican is in that White House," Congressman Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, said as he introduced former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Senator Rick Santorum at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner at Bowling Green State University.
The two rivals showed their very different styles, with Gingrich talking facts and figures, and Santorum talking freedom and faith.
"I believe this is the most important election of our lifetime," Gingrich told the sold-out crowd of more than 760. "A second term would be extraordinarily destructive of basically every value we have."
He blamed Obama's energy policy as "punishing America" into using new technology.
In contrast, Gingrich said he would replace the Environmental Protection Agency with an "Environmental Solutions Agency." All new staff would be hired. "Nobody would be transferred over."
Gingrich referred to energy issues as a matter of national security, "so that no future president bows to a Saudi king."
He quoted Obama as saying there is no "silver bullet" to solve energy issues.
"He's right. But there is a presidential pen." And if elected, Gingrich said he would use that pen to sign approval of the Keystone Pipeline, more offshore production off Louisiana and Texas, and more drilling in Alaska.
There is nothing wrong, he said, with the mantra, "drill, drill, drill." Gingrich said more off-shore drilling could actually pay off the federal debt.
By generating more supply, Gingrich said gas prices could easily be dropped to $2.50 a gallon.
Several people in the audience carried signs for "Newt" with his "$2.50" promise noted.
He spoke of the natural gas being found in shale, and said Obama is opposed to exploring it more. "No one on the left wants to know this."
Gingrich, who was joined at the event by his wife, Calista, assured the crowd that he was the candidate best able to debate Obama in the fall.
But Santorum, accompanied by his wife, Karen, and three of their seven children, said he was the best candidate to lead the "fight for freedom." Voters should not shy away from a candidate simply because he isn't "moderate," since these times require inspiration, not moderation, he said.
"The real soul of America is at stake."
He accused Democrats of not valuing the Declaration of Independence, as the document "where our rights come from."
When liberals cry out for "equal, equal," they fail to recognize the root of their rights, Santorum said. "Does it come from Islam," he asked the crowd. No, it comes from Judea-Christian beliefs, he said.
Santorum said the current government is trying to "keep faith out of the public square."
"You see it happening with Obama-care," he said, criticizing the health care reform for requiring people to buy health insurance and for forcing Catholics to take birth control coverage that they believe is a "grave sin."
Santorum slammed Obama for taking wealth from some to give to others. He "castigates people who have been successful."
He said America's strength lies in its faith, family, community organizations and small businesses.
He blamed current regulatory burdens for slowing business growth. He referred to climate science as "political science." And he promised to balance the budget in five years and vowed to not cut defense spending.
Santorum agreed with Gingrich on the weight of this presidential election.
"This election is the most important election in your lifetime, and I don't care how old you are," he said.
And Ohio, he added, is "the epicenter of the political world."
Santorum did not mention his main rival, Mitt Romney, by name, but said the election can't be won with negative ads.
"You're going to have to win because you have better ideas," he said.
Santorum also noted that 64 percent of his campaign donations are under $200, while two-thirds of Romney's donations hit the maximum allowed amount.
"We're running a very different campaign," he said.
Outside the student union Saturday evening, about 75 protesters quietly marched, many of the them holding signs protesting the GOP presidential candidates.
Michael Hale criticized the candidates for platforms of homophobia, support of income inequality and assaults on the environment.
"We don't appreciate the narrow minded point of view," Joe DeMare said.
Protester Jake Stewart said it might actually help President Obama if Santorum is the Republican nominee since his platform is so extreme.
"It's getting ridiculous," Stewart said.
Matt Bridgewater said the quality of candidates brought him out Saturday night to the protest. "I've always liked the circus."
The keynote speaker at the dinner, Grover Norquist, said he likes all the GOP candidates. Norquist was the creator of the "no more taxes" contract signed by 238 members of the House and 41 members of the Senate.
He saved his criticism for the Democrats.
"The left is made up of competing parasites," he said.
In contrast, Republicans basically wish to be left alone by government. "They don't want their rights violated," he said.
He was critical of Obama's stimulus package and over-regulation which has led to cars that are too small, light bulbs that don't shed enough light, and toilets that don't adequately flush.
"The left has an endless supply of reasons" for higher taxes. "Like a teenage boy on a prom date," Norquist said.