"Ronald Reagan understood that faith plus family equals freedom in America," Santorum said.
Inspired by the bronzed gaze of Ronald Reagan, Santorum spoke without notes for nearly 40 minutes in Dixon, Ill., where the nation's 40th President lived as a young boy and teenager. The former Pennsylvania Senator compared his political plight in 2012 to Reagan in 1976.
"Ronald Reagan would never apologize for the greatest country in the history of the world," Santorum said. "He was considered too conservative, someone who was unelectable because we needed to appeal to moderates."
Several hundred people from Dixon and nearby communities gathered at the Reagan statue, which is located literally across the street from the Lee County Democratic Party headquarters. In the ten states Santorum has won so far, he built his winning margins in small towns and rural areas.
"It doesn't matter if you're from the same small town in Dixon or another small town around the area, when somebody is in trouble you reach out," said Eric Miller. "Rick Santorum gives that feeling to everybody in the small town America."
"I think Mitt Romney relate to the upper class more, but rick Santorum relates to the middle and working class," Megan Loomis said.
Santorum began his Illinois primary stretch run in Rockford Monday morning, blasting frontrunner Mitt Romney for giving president Obama the blue print for the healthcare reform. He called Obamacare the biggest issue in the campaign and that the former Massachusetts governor is "uniquely disqualified" to debate it with the president in November.
"He can't be the nominee, because he would take away from the Republican Party," Santorum said. "In this crucial election, the most important in your lifetime, he would take away the central issue in this campaign.
Santorum plans a public event Monday night in East Peoria, perhaps his last public campaign event before the Illinois primary voting begins Tuesday. Santorum is hoping to win votes and delegates in downstate areas, hoping to offset Mitt Romney's presumed strength in the Chicago suburbs.