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santorum in california Rick Santorum shakes hands with supporters after a speaking at a rally at the Jelly Belly Candy Co. in Fairfield, California, on Thursday, March 29. (Photo: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Election 2012: Jelly Beans and Stump Speeches

Rick Santorum holds rally at California candy company

By Veronica Louise Mendoza | March 30 , 2012

Republican voters in California vote in their state's primary on June 5. But even though the primary is more than three months away, Rick Santorum is getting an early start on campaigning in the state.

On Thursday, Santorum held a rally at the Jelly Belly Candy Company in Fairfield, California. The focus of the candidate's speech was healthcare reform and foreign policy. He also touched on issues like the national debt and lack of conservative leadership in the United States.

But he also spent time talking about Mitt Romney, who is leading all candidates in the race to the Republican nomination.

"We need someone who isn't going to be the Etch-A-Sketch candidate, [but] someone who is going to stand by their principles."

Last week, Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN that if Romney wins the nomination then they would "hit a reset button for the fall campaign."

"Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch-A-Sketch," Fehrnstrom continued. "You can kind of shake it up and restart all of over again."

These comments have led the other Republican candidates to say Romney has no real positions on the issues. Instead, he'll say what he thinks people want to hear in order to win the nomination.

"Romney said that he will run as a conservative in the fall," Santorum said. "I'm not going to run as a conservative. I am the conservative."

Because he is a genuine conservative, Santorum said that he is the best candidate to go head-to-head with President Barack Obama in the November election.

Santorum urged voters "to stand up and fight for a candidate who can win this general election."

If he wins the election, a Santorum presidency would mean "freedom and opportunity" for California, he told the Kids Press Corps.

His daughter Elizabeth added that, "as far as economic freedom goes, getting more jobs back to America and his manufacturing plan really differentiates him from other candidates."

"He wants a zero tax rate on manufactures," Elizabeth Santorum told the Kids Press Corps. "So, for plants like Jelly Belly who want to make more jelly beans, this would really give a boost to them and all of the manufacturing in California."

Some voters at the rally agreed with Santorum that he is the real conservative in the primary race.

"Rick Santorum is very genuine," said Meri Phelps, a voter from Fairfield, California. "He has a goal in mind of what to do when he is President and he doesn't need a teleprompter because he knows what he is talking about."

She added that attending rallies like this one was important. They give voters a chance to see what a candidate is really like. It also allows kids to see politics happening in real life.

"It's a great opportunity for people like you and me to meet the candidates and to get up close and personal," Phelps said. "There's nothing like experiencing this and it's so much different from watching it on TV. You can meet the candidates and have them talk to you and then as you grow up and start to vote you can make your own decisions."

Phelps was at the rally with her husband and her son, Aaron. Aaron has been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). SMA is an incurable rare genetic disease that kills neuronal cells that are used for motor skills.

By attending the rally, the Phelps family hoped to raise Santorum's awareness of SMA.

Santorum took notice and spoke to Aaron after his speech.

"You're a tough kid. You're a fighter," Santorum said. "God bless to the Phelps family. I am so happy that you are out here today."

ELECTION 2012

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