After speaking in Springfield, Mo., earlier in the day, the former Pennsylvania senator delivered the keynote address Saturday night at the Cape Girardeau County Republican Women's Lincoln Day event, touching on his positions on national security, foreign policy, health care and energy.
He spoke to more than 700 attendees at the dinner, several times questioning GOP front-runner Mitt Romney's stances and providing a "clear contrast" on those issues between him and President Barack Obama.
"I have different visions for our country," Santorum said.
He criticized Obama's policies toward Iran and Israel, claiming that the president ignores U.N. sanctions and displays weakness on those issues. On health care, Santorum touted his experience with legislation on health savings accounts and said Massachusetts, where a version of government-run health insurance is used, is a good example of why Obama's health care plan won't work for the country. Santorum also used his stance on health care to attack Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.
"He actually implemented it there, and it's a failure," Santorum said.
Santorum made Cape Girardeau a campaign stop at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, a Cape Girardeau Republican. Earlier Saturday, Santorum won the Kansas caucus, picking up 33 of the state's 40 delegates. Santorum hopes to continue momentum with GOP caucuses and primaries toward the 1,144 delegates needed to capture the Republican nomination.
The audience responded with loud approval when Santorum said he opposed the president's stance on energy and oil and voiced support of the Keystone Pipeline. He used the last one-third of his approximately 25-minute speech to tie the issues to his views on the rights of citizens and beliefs.
"This election has to be about big things," he said. "It has to be about who we are."
Santorum said in his opinion, right now there is too much government control that limit a free market and "a group of people in Washington who want you to give up confidence in yourself to provide."
Santorum won February's "beauty contest" primary in Missouri.
"Some people say that election didn't count for anything, but I think it says something about Rick, and about us," Emerson said during her introduction.
Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder acted as master of ceremonies for the event. Other speakers included Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, and Cape Girardeau County Auditor Pete Frazier, who presented several awards to local Republican officeholders.
Janey Foust of Jackson was first in line to buy a ticket for the event several weeks ago when she heard Santorum was coming here. She said after the address that she wasn't aware of all his positions on issues, but her mind hadn't changed about whether to support him.
"Actually, now I know he feels exactly how I do," she said. "His stance on oil and energy was a big one. I liked what he had to say on it and I didn't know his views until tonight."
After his remarks at the Lincoln Day event, Santorum appeared briefly before a lighter-than-expected crowd of less than 100 at a hangar at the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport. Organizers said previously that they had hoped to see at least 200.
"This is my first trip to Cape Girardeau," Santorum told the crowd. "Jo Ann's been bragging on you a long time. It's good to be in the hometown of Rush Limbaugh, which some people see as a trip to Mecca."
Appearing on a stage alongside Emerson and his wife, Santorum thanked the people of Missouri for helping to reinvigorate his campaign. In February, with his campaign stalling, more than 55 percent of Missourians voted for Santorum in its presidential preference primary.
"Without the people of Missouri, I would not be standing here today," he said. "It got their attention and knocked their socks off."
Santorum asked for help as he approaches Missouri's caucuses Saturday, which will take place for Cape Girardeau County at 10 a.m. at the University of Missouri Extension office in Jackson.
"I need your help next week to help get the word out," he said. "I'm going to take pictures with whoever wants one, and I want you to replace your Facebook picture with that one."
With U.S. Secret Service agents standing guard, Santorum made good on his promise and shook hands with everyone who wanted to, taking time to chat and have his picture taken.
While the crowd at the airport was thin, some sat in their cars for two hours before the event waiting for a glimpse of the man some hope will replace President Barack Obama.
"I've liked him all along," said Dianne Maclin of Hayti, Mo. "He's conservative. He's a Christian. His values are more in line with mine."
But a Cape Girardeau couple who showed up for the rally were on opposite sides of the GOP contest. Dr. Michael Wulfers is a firm Santorum supporter, while his wife Mary prefers his Republican rival, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.
"There is nothing I like about Rick Santorum," Mary Wulfers said.
While Santorum has seen a strong showing from the Republican base, Democrats have lambasted the candidate for his hard-line views on issues like health care, homosexuality and the environment. At Lincoln Day, for example, Santorum called global warming a hoax.
Michael Wulfers called Santorum a "true conservative" -- a good man and a man of faith. Mary Wulfers said she believes that more accurately describes her candidate.
"It's made for some interesting conversations at home," Michael Wulfers said.
At the end of the night, Santorum said he had to catch a flight to Tupelo, Miss. He had an early day Sunday, he said, saying he was scheduled to be on the television show "Face the Nation."
Several of those who attended the airport event said they were glad they were there to see Santorum.
"I've got a lot of respect for the guy," said Darrell Tilley of Du Quoin, Ill. "He's got conservative values. He's a religious man. He's very respectable."
3257 William St., Cape Girardeau, MO
Cape Girardeau Regional Airport, Cape Girardeau, MO