CUMMING, Georgia — Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum on Sunday accused President Barack Obama of advocating a “world view” that is different from that of most Americans as he accused the Democratic incumbent of promoting the ideas of “radical environmentalists” and encouraging more abortions by requiring insurers to pay for prenatal tests. Obama’s campaign in turn criticized the former Pennsylvania senator for unfairly attacking the president’s faith as the Republican nominating contest has pivoted from emphasizing the economy to social issues. Santorum, a staunch opponent of abortion and gay rights, has surged past Mitt Romney in recent opinion polls of Republican voters after winning contests in Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri on Feb. 7. Several polls have shown Santorum leading in Romney’s native state of Michigan, where his father served as governor. The primaries in Michigan and Arizona on Feb. 28 mark the end of a lull in the state-by-state contests to choose delegates to the party’s national convention. Though Santorum has climbed in the polls, Romney is considered the Republican front-runner nationwide, with more delegates from state-by-state voting that are necessary to claim the party’s nomination. The two other rivals for the Republican Party nomination are former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and the libertarian-leaning Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Meanwhile, Obama has seen his ratings in the polls steadily rising as the economy — by far his biggest weakness — continues to show signs of a recovery. Santorum’s attacks on Obama reflect an effort to position himself as the leading conservative alternative to Romney by appealing to the large bloc of religious voters and supporters of the small government, anti-tax tea party movement.
A day after telling an Ohio audience that Obama’s agenda is based on “some phony theology, not a theology based on the Bible,” Santorum on Sunday said he wasn’t criticizing the president’s Christianity. “I’ve repeatedly said I don’t question the president’s faith. I’ve repeatedly said that I believe the president’s Christian,” Santorum told CBS television’s “Face the Nation.” “I am talking about his world view, and the way he approaches problems in this country. I think they’re different than how most people do in America,” he said in the broadcast interview. Santorum said Obama’s environmental policies promote ideas of “radical environmentalists,” who, Santorum argues, oppose greater use of the country’s natural resources because they believe “man is here to serve the Earth.” He said that was the reference he was making Saturday in his Ohio campaign appearance when he denounced a “phony theology.” When pressed by reporters after he made the initial remark Saturday, however, Santorum made no mention of the president’s environmental policies. Instead, he suggested that Obama practises one of the “different stripes of Christianity.”