Rick Santorum denounced President Barack Obama as a politician "drunk with power" as he rallied support Saturday for Mitt Romney in the Republican stronghold of Westmoreland County.
"Just in the last few weeks, I've seen things that have even stunned me ... the hubris and the arrogance of power of this president," the former senator from Pennsylvania told a crowd of GOP partisans spilling out into the street from a Romney campaign "victory office" in Greensburg, a few blocks from the Westmoreland County Courthouse. It was Mr. Santorum's first Pennsylvania appearance on behalf of his former rival for the GOP nomination.
He accused the Obama administration of overreaching its power in the president's recent directive to ease immigration enforcement for certain young people and in an announcement from the Department of Health and Human Services last week that it would consider state-by-state waivers of the work requirement enacted with the welfare-overhaul law championed by Mr. Santorum and signed by President Bill Clinton.
The conservative also charged that the president had tried to "bully the Supreme Court" into upholding the administration's health care law.
Mr. Santorum had raised questions about the depth of his support for Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, after endorsing him in a low-key email in May, but he appeared enthusiastic in backing the soon-to-be nominee in his remarks amid the crowded, overheated GOP office.
Mr. Santorum urged the crowd to rally the GOP grass roots for an election that he said would be "a tipping point for freedom."
"Pennsylvania is where it's at," he said. "We're the Keystone State. If Pennsylvania goes Republican, Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States."
Pennsylvania Democrats greeted the Santorum appearance with statements emailed to reporters reminding them of the former senator's reported remarks during the primary battle in which he called on his then-opponent to release his tax returns. Asked about the issue after his remarks, Mr. Santorum said, "He has released his tax returns."
Mr. Romney has released one year's tax returns and a summary of another and insisted that that disclosure was sufficient. The Obama campaign has pressed him to follow the recent pattern of presidential candidates of releasing multiple years of tax data.
In speeches and in a blistering round of television ads, the Democratic campaign has tried to link Mr. Romney's decision to withhold tax information with questions raised over Mr. Romney's stewardship of Bain Capital and its business practices and the murky debate over when he effectively left the firm to lead the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.
Mr. Santorum defended Mr. Romney's record at Bain and noted Saturday that it was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, not he, who had pressed the intraparty Bain criticism during the primaries.
Referring to the former senator's earlier statements on Mr. Romney's tax disclosure, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairman, Jim Burn, said, "Mitt Romney should take Rick Santorum's advice and come clean to the American people."
Mr. Santorum spoke in a county that was once reliably Democratic but has evolved into an increasingly secure Republican bastion. State Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, noted that Mr. Santorum's 1994 upset victory for the Senate was a breakthrough for the GOP as he narrowly carried the county.
While that result seemed like an aberration at the time, the county's voting performance in statewide and national elections has become increasingly Republican. For years, Democrats managed to retain their strength in more local contests, but in 2011, GOP candidates swept to control of the board of commissioners along with all of the countywide row offices.
Mr. Romney hopes to stoke that GOP momentum Tuesday with an appearance at a rally in nearby Irwin. The event is at Horizontal Wireline Services on Colonial Manor Road. The former governor is expected to speak sometime after 1 p.m., before heading to Pittsburgh for a round of fundraising at the Duquesne Club.
Politics editor James O'Toole: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1562.