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Santorum, in York Co., says he trusts "people of South Carolina"

Convincing supporters that a vote for him won't be a waste was one of Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's goals on the campaign trail in Rock Hill and York on Friday.

Christy and Scott Petit of Clover were eating lunch at Popes at the White House in York when the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania came through.

Sitting on stools at the counter, the Petits said they weren't sure who would get their vote - former House Speaker Newt Gingrich or Santorum - and were worried that the more conservative Republicans vying for the party's nomination would split votes, helping former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to a victory.

"We didn't want to waste our vote," said Christy Petit, who's looking for a candidate with strong family values.

Hearing and talking to Santorum convinced her that "God's in control," and that she should vote for the candidate she truly supports.

"He's a true conservative," Scott Petit said. "The morality of this country is riding on this election."

The term "true conservative" came up earlier Friday at the Magnolia Room at Laurel Creek in Rock Hill.

Small business owner Marlene Mitchell, one of more than 250 people there, told Santorum she's "very worried about having to vote for Mitt Romney."

The Rock Hill woman went on to say she's worried about Santorum, Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry "splitting the Republican vote."

"This country cannot take four more years of Barack Obama," she said, "and I'm not so sure it can take four years of Mitt Romney."

Mitchell asked if the three candidates had talked about how, "at the end of the day" the three of them "can assure...that we're going to get a true conservative Republican who's going to have enough courage to stand up for the values and principles this great nation was founded on."

Santorum said he fielded the same questions in Iowa.

"My response was, 'I trust the people of Iowa,' " he said.

"My response is, 'I trust the people of South Carolina,' that they're going to look at these candidates" and choose him, the "rock-solid conservative."

Santorum's speech didn't touch on policy, but during a question-and-answer session, he talked about lowering taxes, changing the tax code and repealing regulations on business.

He said he wanted to eliminate corporate taxes for manufacturers and processors - the companies "making things in America...to make 'Made in America' a symbol of America again."

Santorum has finished third in recent South Carolina polls behind Gingrich and Romney, who's still in the lead.

Santorum might be on the decline in South Carolina, according to recent polls. Rasmussen Reports' polling showed him in second place, with 24 percent, on Jan. 5 - falling to 16 percent in a poll released Thursday.

That put him in a third-place tie with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Since Wednesday, Santorum has fallen to fourth behind Paul, according to Public Policy Polling.

Santorum has come under attack for not being a "true conservative."

To reporters in Rock Hill, Santorum defended recent attacks from Romney's Super PAC that he supported earmarks for projects such as a "Bridge to Nowhere" and an indoor rainforest and voted to raise the debt limit.

"It's sort of funny that he would be criticizing me on things that don't exist," he said, adding that the projects mentioned never got off the ground.

"We raised the debt limit...during a period of time over 16 years. We raised it less in 16 years than has happened in three years here under President Obama."

He called the debt limit a "funny issue...obviously if the government spends more money, then you've got to raise the debt ceiling."

He said his record is strong on reforming entitlements and getting government spending under control.

Family values

Similar to a visit last year in Lake Wylie, Santorum focused his speech on family values.

"You can't have limited government if you don't have people living good and decent lives," he said. "Raising good and decent children means that we can have more freedom."

Bolstering Santorum's message on the campaign trail was the Duggar family, the Christian conservative family from Arkansas with 20 children featured on a TLC network reality show.

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their four oldest children have been campaigning with Santorum.

God called them to politics, Michelle Duggar said, and Santorum represents their family values, which include homeschooling and making faith a central part of their lives.

Santorum's message didn't appeal to everyone.

Paul Anderko, a member of the Rock Hill tea party group GPS: Conservatives for Action, said Santorum's speech was like a "run-on sentence" and likened it to a "religious rant" that was "not what I wanted to hear from a candidate."

Santorum's visit is the third this week by a presidential hopeful. Rick Perry was in Rock Hill Tuesday and Newt Gingrich spoke at the Magnolia Room on Wednesday.

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