The candidates all got an early start to the last full day of campaigning, spreading out across New Hampshire to make their final pitches to the rather large number of not-entirely-convinced Granite State voters.  Rick Santorum’s day started at Rivier College, a small Catholic university in New Hampshire that has a student body of 2300, which had been a women’s-only school until the 1990s.  Founded in 1933 by the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, who still run Rivier, it offers a wide range of study, with its most popular disciplines being nursing, criminal justice, business, and education, in which they also offer a doctoral program.

Originally, the town-hall event was scheduled to take place at 8:30 in Dion Center, which one security office told me seats around 300 people.  By the time I arrived at 7:50, the start had been pushed to 9 am and the venue moved outside to the soccer field.  The explanation given was that concern had arisen that the indoor area wouldn’t hold the number of people expected to arrive, although in the end, there was little to worry about; the number of voters appeared to be no more than 100, and about half as many media.  It’s a warmer-than-usual winter in New Hampshire, but the temperature at the start of the event was still only 21 degrees.  I spoke with three attendees, none of whom had committed to Santorum as their candidate; they wanted to hear him in person, but two of them were especially concerned about electability.

Santorum didn’t skimp on substance in his speech when he arrived.  He covered his economic proposals in detail, fueled by a generally positive review from the Wall Street Journal yesterday.  His platform is designed to appeal to working-class voters, what Tim Pawlenty once called “Sam’s Club Republicans” (Santorum name-checked Costco), who are concerned about the evaporation of manufacturing.  Santorum argued that manufacturing jobs are the backbone of small-town America, and that the move to a “knowledge economy” is a mistake, and attacked Barack Obama for increasing regulation that boosts big business at the expense of smaller entrepreneurs. “If it’s big business, Obama loves it,” Santorum said. “If it’s small, he wants to crush it.”  Here are some choice quotes from his speech this morning:

Santorum also spoke at length in defending energy production and the coal industry, stressing the need to “have the energy to meet the demands of a growing economy.”  Santorum proposed an energy policy that’s entirely source neutral — no subsidies for any energy source.  For those concerned about the environmental consequences of energy production, Santorum argues that the world needs energy, and the US produces it more cleanly and safely than anywhere else.

It’s not a campaign event without some local color.  A self-described EMP activist showed up to warn everyone about the dangers of a nuclear weapon being used to destroy the technological infrastructure of the US.  Since Santorum is talking about Iran, I asked him if he’s backing Santorum, but he says that Newt Gingrich is the only one so far who truly understands the threat.  I can tell you that EMP has been a concern of the DoD for decades, but I’m not sure it’s really the primary threat from an Iranian nuke: