(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, was invited by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican, who confirmed Monday that he had accepted.
The Cape Girardeau County Lincoln Day event is at 6 p.m. March 10 at Ray's Plaza Conference Center.
"He really understands blue collar, Middle America," Emerson said. "He has the best overall, well-rounded understanding of some of the challenges in a state like ours. I am so happy he accepted my invitation."
Santorum has placed emphasis on Missouri, visiting the state last week leading up to today's primary, which his campaign sees as a head-to-head race against GOP front-runner Mitt Romney.
But today's primary is a nonbinding election and Santorum's trip to Cape Girardeau will take place one week before the state's caucuses March 17, when the actual delegate selection process begins in Missouri.
Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said Monday that Missouri, a swing state that narrowly supported Arizona Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential contest, is vitally important.
"Senator Santorum's message is strong nationally, but Missouri is one of those places where it hits home and resonates," Gidley said.
While March is too far off to predict exactly what the theme of Santorum's speech will be, Gidley said he consistently talks about "knowing who we are as a country -- about how far from the founding principles we've fallen."
Santorum is great, Gidley said, at explaining how the country can regain its greatness and how that vision is "not dead in this country."
Gidley mentioned two Cape Girardeau natives -- conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh and his brother, columnist David Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh, on his show last week, said all other GOP candidates had "committed transgressions to conservatism except Rick Santorum."
Other candidates still in the race include former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
Of the four GOP candidates, David Limbaugh said, Santorum presents the starkest conservative contrast to President Barack Obama. Santorum's platform includes staunch opposition to abortion and gay marriage, as well as fiscal restraint and a ban on earmarks.
"I think he's a strong conservative on all fronts, compared to the other three," Limbaugh said. "Ultimately, when all this plays out, I think he will also be seen to be the most electable."
Limbaugh acknowledged that Santorum is not the favorite right now. He came in last place last week in the Nevada caucuses. But Limbaugh is optimistic that Santorum will emerge as the nominee.
"I really think that's realistic," Limbaugh said. "I don't think that's a pipe dream."
The annual Lincoln Day event is sponsored by the Cape Girardeau Republican Women's Club.
While the club originally estimated about 300 showing up, club president Holly Lintner said Monday's news about Santorum will likely double the attendance. The tickets are $20 and are on sale at JCS Wireless, Horizon Screen Printing and Emerson's campaign office in Cape Girardeau and the Cash-Book Journal in Jackson.
"It's going to be huge," Lintner said. "I'm so excited because Rick is a true conservative who is doing this without billions of dollars and one handshake at a time. To have him bring that message here is exciting."
3257 William St., Cape Girardeau, MO