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Santorum Calls Occupy Protesters 'Radical Element'

Tacoma police officers drag off an protestor during a Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum rally in Tacoma, Washington.
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Tacoma police officers drag off an protestor during a Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum rally in Tacoma, Washington.

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorumclashed with Tacoma Occupy protesters during his first visit to Washington state, a place he said would be a "momentum changer" heading into Super Tuesday.

Minutes into Santorum's speech Monday, protesters began chanting and shouting. They rarely stopped over the next half-hour.

"I think it's really important to understand what this radical element represents," Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Washington Historical Museum. "What they represent is true intolerance."

Police dragged away two protesters in the midst of Santorum's speech.

The event took place next to the Occupy protest camp site. Santorum, who trails rival Mitt Romney in fundraising and organization, depended on the Washington Republican Party to organize Monday's event.

"I understand their frustration. For three years they haven't been able to find work," Santorum said after his supporters chanted, "Get a job."

Santorum is the first Republican presidential candidate to visit Washington state this year. It holds nonbinding presidential caucuses on March 3, three days before Super Tuesday, when 10 states have contests.

Since winning three contests last week, Santorum has tried to portray the presidential contest as a two-man race with Romney. When he was able to ignore the protesters, he directed most of his criticism at President Barack Obama but took a swipe at the health care plan Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.

"RomneyCare was the model for ObamaCare," Santorum said.

He campaigns this week in Idaho, North Dakota, Michigan and Ohio. North Dakota and Ohio are among the Super Tuesday contests on March 6.

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