Santorum sweeps Kansas caucus

By Bill Felber

Rick Santorum claimed Riley County on his way to winning the Kansas presidential caucus Saturday, and he did so in the most effortless way possible.

Santorum picked up the support of 39 percent of 717 caucus-goers at Susan B. Anthony Middle School despite the fact that no representative of his campaign showed up to lobby on his behalf. Each of the other three active candidates in the race — Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich — was represented at the forum.

Romney finished second in the voting, winning 28 percent, while Gingrich got 19 percent. Paul finished fourth with 14 percent.

Santorum even won the surrounding counties, including Geary, Marshall, Clay and Pottawatomie.

At stake statewide were the bulk of the state’s 40 national convention delegates plus whatever momentum the winner could take into Tuesday’s primaries in Alabama and Mississippi.

Voting was preceded by 10-minute speeches delivered by representatives of the campaign, each seated at a table festooned with their candidate’s paraphernalia. All, that is, except the Santorum table, which remained vacant and bare. When county chair Barb VanSlyke invited a Santorum representative to step forward, none did until her open appeal to the audience was accepted by a man who identified himself as David VanBebber. “He’s a staunch conservative economically and he’s pro-life,” VanBebber said of Santorum during an off-the-cuff, four-minute remark. At the same time, he made it clear that he had no objection to any of the four active candidates. “I would walk through the snow barefoot for any of them,” VanBebber said.

Romney was represented by Bob Boyd and Jim Gardner. Boyd said that while each candidate has “our values,” only Romney has leadership skills, experience at running an economic entity, vision and executive skills.

Gardner, a Manhattan physician, told caucus-goers that he had been offended by what he described as the Democrats’ forced imposition of health care reform on their own terms. “Romney won’t jam something down our throat,” he said.

Holly Friesen, who heads the local Gingrich campaign, said her man “has a vision to restore American exceptionalism.” She noted his advocacy of a 15 percent flat tax and other tax and economic reforms. Under Gingrich, she said, “government will take less of our money and we will have more of it.”

Ian Huyett spoke on behalf of Paul. He said his candidate would implement $1 trillion in spending cuts, eliminating five federal cabinet offices — Education, HUD,, Commerce, Energy and Interior. A vote for Paul, he said, would “revive our American character.”









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