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GOP Hopeful Santorum Holds Rally At Fairfield Jelly Belly Factory

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Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign event at the Jelly Belly Candy Company on March 29, 2012 in Fairfield. Santorum toured the Jelly Belly factory before speaking to supporters. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign event at the Jelly Belly Candy Company on March 29, 2012 in Fairfield. Santorum toured the Jelly Belly factory before speaking to supporters. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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FAIRFIELD (CBS / AP) — Hundreds gathered at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield on Thursday afternoon for a rally held by Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum.

The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania gave a speech at the candy factory’s visitor center Thursday afternoon to ramp up support for his campaign.

Santorum strongly criticized President Barack Obama on foreign policy Thursday, saying that the United States has been slow to address Iran’s threat to develop nuclear weapons, has ignored its ally Israel and rushes to engage America’s enemies.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Santorum suggested that many of Obama’s foreign policy decisions have been based on political considerations because the November presidential election is approaching. He pointed to an incident earlier this week in which Obama was caught on tape telling Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more room to negotiate on missile defense after the November election.

“Here’s the president of the United States, the leader of the free world, saying, ‘Give me a little space, buddy, a little space, a little flexibility, because I’ve got an election coming up and then I’ll be, then I’ll throw some of our other allies under the bus,” Santorum said.

Santorum spoke to about 200 supporters at the Jelly Belly Candy Co., touching on familiar criticisms of the president and repeatedly invoking President Ronald Reagan, who made the candy company famous by serving its jelly beans from his desk at the White House.

In a reference to Reagan’s 1986 summit meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, in which their nuclear treaty talks fell apart, Santorum said: “Ronald Reagan didn’t whisper to Gorbachev, ‘Give me some flexibility.’ He walked out of Iceland.”

The former Pennsylvania senator said Obama has taken his eye off the real threat facing America, the development of a nuclear weapon in Iran, to avoid a confrontation before the election.

“And what has he done on that front? What he’s done on that front is the same thing he did off-camera with the president of Russia. ‘Give me a little time,’ and that’s exactly what he’s given to Iran, a little time,” he said.

Obama has said he didn’t have a hidden agenda with Russia and that his comments caught on tape only meant that election-year politics make any nuclear arms reduction or missile defense negotiations extremely difficult.

California’s primary does not come until June, and the state is not typically in play, but Santorum told supporters that this year their votes will matter. In the meantime, he urged them to give generously and to call their friends in Wisconsin, which holds its primary on Tuesday.

Santorum also invoked Reagan’s name to jab at front-runner Mitt Romney, saying Romney lacks Santorum’s core convictions on the economy, social issues and on foreign policy. He held a mini Etch A Sketch, a reference to a comment by a Romney aide who said the former Massachusetts governor would be able to reset his campaign after the extended primary fight.

“No one doubted where Ronald Reagan was on the issue of communism. No one doubted where he was, there was no sense that there might be an Etch A Sketch policy when it came to our national security,” he said.

Santorum said he has been consistent in stressing radical Islam as the primary foreign threat against America and pushing for sanctions against Syria and Iran.

The former senator also said Obama is threatening the future stability of Iraq and Afghanistan by signaling the U.S. exit strategy and that he wrongly abandoned missile programs in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Santorum said Obama has endangered the state of Israel because of his “lack of moral certitude, the lack of vision, of the greatness of our country.”

At one point, as Santorum emphasized his socially conservative values, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage, a woman in the back of the room interrupted his speech and yelled, “California stands for marriage equality.” Santorum eventually asked the crowd to drown out the woman with clapping and cheers, and security removed her from the room.

Shortly before Santorum began speaking, a large crowd of people, including dozens of children, milled around the visitor center’s conference room.

Many toted Santorum campaign signs, and a few carried their own homemade placards bearing messages including “Character Counts” and “We need you, Rick!”

Some people waited for hours at the factory in anticipation of Santorum’s arrival.

“We think he’s great,” said Kathy Ross, 63, of Placerville, who was with Charlotte Moreno, 68, also of Placerville, and Cathy Cook, 60, of San Jose.

“He stands for what we believe in … I think he’s the most honest candidate,” Ross said.

The rally was followed by a private fundraiser at the Jelly Belly factory. Santorum also appeared at another fundraiser at a home in Alamo.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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