Rick Santorum has distinguished himself among his GOP competitors as a “supply-sider for the working man,” as a candidate who has tailored his economic plan to the needs of manufacturers and blue-collar workers. He calls, for example, for the complete elimination of corporate taxes for manufacturers.

He happens to believe “making things” creates wealth, he has said. He argues that the more protectionist and mercantilist aspects of his economic plan give him a unique and broader appeal among the GOP Final Four. The president’s State of the Union address — in which the president highlighted some of the very same ideas Santorum has stumped, including the idea of easing the tax burden on manufacturers more so than on other businesses — gave him more evidence to support the theory that he can pick up swing states the other candidates couldn’t. CNN Political Ticker reports:

“What did the president lead with[?]” Santorum asked the crowd. “Now remember we all know that this was a purely political speech. This was a speech designed to go after different voter groups that he thinks are key for him to win the election. We all agree with that? Okay, what was the first voter group that he went after, the one that he spent the most time on? The one he was going to do the most to help? Manufacturing. Blue collar workers.”

Pointing to his previous electoral successes in largely blue-collar Pennsylvania, Santorum regularly makes the case that he’s the only candidate who’d be able to attract those voters in a general election contest against the president. At many events he contrasts that record with Mitt Romney’s success appealing to moderates in Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich’s record of holding on to a conservative Congressional district in Georgia.

“Barack Obama knows the key to this election are the swing states in particular in the industrial heartland of our country,” Santorum said. “The Reagan Democrats, those blue-collar democrats who swung for Ronald Reagan and provided a 49-state victory.”

Santorum might have a point — but, as the manufacturing-oriented aspects of Santorum’s platform aren’t particularly conservative (and arguably the most concerning of his stances), his response to the president’s SOTU address also raises the question as to whether Santorum might not be pandering to blue-collar workers, as well. That’s not to say he doesn’t believe in his own proposals — just to say they’re likely to be more politically effective than economically effective in the long-term.

The contrasts Santorum has recently drawn with his competitors — his repeated reminders that he has never supported an individual health care mandate and that he unequivocally opposed the bailouts — are his biggest selling points with the GOP faithful, and, for now, he should stay focused on those.