The South Carolina primaries are at least a year away, but you wouldn't have known it standing in the Logan's Roadhouse where prospective presidential candidate Rick Santorum spoke Wednesday afternoon.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator representing Pennsylvania, spoke to about 50 people at a Myrtle Beach Tea Party event and mentioned several times the responsibility that South Carolina voters have in presidential races.
"You have a very important role to play in this whole scenario," Santorum said to the crowded room.
South Carolina has one of the earliest primary dates, and Santorum pointed out that no Republican since 1980 has gone on to win the nomination for president without first winning the South Carolina primary.
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Santorum is one of three prospective presidential candidates to visit the area in the last few weeks, likely setting the tone for the rest of the year. In mid-January, Newt Gingrich visited the area, and earlier this week, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson talked to Myrtle Beach Tea Party members.
"You are the human resource department when it comes to who runs for president," he told those who attended.
Santorum spoke to the local tea party members about a variety of issues, but many stemmed back to his idea that Americans are fundamentally different from other people in the world.
"The DNA of the people of America is different," he said. "The people who came to this country did not come here to be taken care of by their government."
And he said that fundamental difference is the reason the 2012 election is "the most important of our lifetime."
"To put this country back on the footing our Founding Fathers intended ... we have to win the presidency, win the Senate," he said.
Santorum said he believes in a strict reading of the Constitution and that the federal government has "overstepped its bounds."
He also said he believes the courts have too much power.
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