After Afternoon With Cruz, Santorum Addresses Texas GOP

Rick Santorum tells stories from his failed presidential campaign June 8, 2012 at the Texas Republican Convention.
Rick Santorum tells stories from his failed presidential campaign June 8, 2012 at the Texas Republican Convention.

FORT WORTH — Rick Santorum wooed a friendly audience with tales of campaign misadventures while avoiding aggravating divisions among his fellow Republicans on Friday night when he addressed a room full of state party leaders at a Texas GOP gala fundraiser.  

The former Pennsylvania senator has endorsed Ted Cruz in his bid against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to become the state's next U.S. senator and replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, but Santorum made no mention of it during his speech.

Cruz and Dewhurst are pitted in a heated runoff that has exposed the division between the grassroots and establishment wings of the GOP — a division that has been on display at the convention. On Thursday, when Gov. Rick Perry praised Dewhurst as the best candidate to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate, members of the crowd loudly booed. When Dewhurst took the stage today, some greeted him with jeers and shouts of "Cruz!" but the noise was quickly shushed by others in the audience. 

Friday night, though, Santorum did not even allude to his role in that race. Instead, save for warnings about the dangers of the Obama administration, he kept his remarks upbeat, praising Republican Gov. Scott Walker's recent recall victory in Wisconsin and talking about the importance of the U.S. Constitution. He also plugged his post-presidential venture PatriotVoices.com, an organization he said he would use to "stay active and involved in the most important election in our country's history." 

He drew laughs from the audience with an anecdote from his early days on the presidential campaign trail when a dog peed on his lap while he visited a woman's home during a block walk. 

 

"I look down and on my tan pants is a huge wet spot in a place where you do not want a huge wet spot. The woman reaches over and says 'Oh, let me dry that.'" he said, adding, "I quickly jumped away."

The punchline: It turned out former Pittsburgh Pirates closer Kent Tekulve also lived on that block, and his door was next. Rather than skip the stop, Santorum said, he "soldiered on."

"Mr. Tekulve, I'm so excited to meet you," he said he told him as he opened the door.

Santorum — who sat at a table with state lawmakers including Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and state Reps. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and Dan Branch, R-Dallas — is popular among Texas Republicans. Polls indicated he was their first choice for president before he dropped out of the race, and he got a standing ovation Friday night. He announced his support for Cruz at the end of May before the primary election, calling the former solicitor general "spellbinding" and a "tremendous orator" on the Glenn Beck Program. This afternoon he attended a fundraiser for Cruz at the Prestonwood Country Club in Dallas.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, also spoke at the gala dinner at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

Cruz, who is scheduled to address the delegates Saturday at 1:30 p.m., spent the day campaigning in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

 

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