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Santorum Says GOP Fails to Connect with Workers

The Democratic Party has done a better job than the Republican Party connecting with low-income voters frustrated by a persistent “wealth gap,” GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum said in North Texas Monday.

Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign luncheon in Fort Worth, Texas on October 12, 2015.

Editor's note: This story has been updated.

NORTH RICHLAND HILLS — Experience counts, and first-term senators — say, for instance, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz — are simply not prepared for the demands of the Oval Office, GOP presidential hopeful and Cruz rival Rick Santorum told more than 300 Tea Party faithful Monday.

“Commander in chief is not an entry-level position,” Santorum, with two terms each in the U.S. House and Senate under his belt, told a gathering sponsored the influential NE Tarrant Tea Party. “The White House is not the job for on-the-job training.”

Throughout a day in Texas, Santorum criticized candidates he said are better suited to “political posturing” — such as Cruz and Republican frontrunner billionaire Donald Trump.

“If you want to put someone in there who can scream and holler that ‘it’s going to be huge,’ great. Feel good about it. But you’re not going to change Washington,” he told the crowd. “You’ve got to be able to work with those egos. I have a track record of winning battles.”

Wayne Wylie, a regular attendee at Tea Party events in North Texas, said he believes depth of experience separates Santorum from Cruz.

“You know, I like Ted Cruz, I voted for him,” Wylie said. “But he’s a first-term senator, and he really doesn’t have the records yet. It’s an interesting dynamic right now, because you have so many people in the race who really don’t have much of a record of anything — and they’re leading the polls.”

Wylie said he was optimistic Santorum could surge in the polls, citing Santorum's surprise win in Iowa during the 2012 primaries. He echoed Santorum's skepticism that polls can effectively predict the outcome of elections.

"It's hard to track people like me, people with cell phones," Wylie said. "The polls don't always tell the full story."

Earlier in the day, Santorum told a crowd of roughly 100 at the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth that the Republican party is failing to connect with poor and working-class voters.

The Democratic Party has done a better job than Republicans connecting with low-income voters frustrated by a persistent “wealth gap,” Santorum said.

“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 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."

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