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Published February 15, 2012, 12:03 AM

Santorum's Star Rising as he Hits Fargo

FARGO – Rick Santorum is riding his momentum in the Republican presidential race to North Dakota’s booming Oil Patch and its largest city.

By: Patrick Springer, Forum Communications

FARGO – Rick Santorum is riding his momentum in the Republican presidential race to North Dakota’s booming Oil Patch and its largest city.

Santorum, who has emerged in polls as the latest rival to Mitt Romney’s lead, will appear today for a town hall meeting and energy roundtable in Tioga, in the Bakken formation, and for a campaign rally in Fargo.

“North Dakota’s a very important state,” Matt Beynon, deputy communications director for the Santorum campaign, said Tuesday. “You guys are emerging as one of the leading energy-producing states in the nation.”

North Dakota’s GOP caucuses fall on March 6, Super Tuesday, when 10 states hold nominating contests in what has been a topsy-turvy presidential race.

Santorum has been a critic of the Obama administration, which is reviewing the environmental safety of hydraulic fracturing – often called “fracking” – which is used to capture oil from shale stone deposits deep in the Bakken.

“I’ve been talking about this on the road, and there’s just no better place to contrast Barack Obama’s destructive energy policy, where he seems to deliberately go out of his way to lower the standard of living for Americans and hurt the economy of this country,” Santorum told Scott Hennen, a conservative talk-radio host, Monday.

“And there’s no better place to talk about that then where energy is king right now, and that’s North Dakota,” added Santorum, who is from Pennsylvania, a gas-producing state.

Matt Becker, communications director for the North Dakota Republican Party, said the Santorum visits will underscore the state’s importance in the nomination race.

“I think it certainly amps up the competitive nature of North Dakota,” Becker said. “We feel confident the other candidates are looking at this very seriously and taking North Dakota very seriously.”

Meanwhile, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple announced Tuesday he was inviting all the Republican presidential candidates to North Dakota to learn about what he called the state’s strong economic climate.

At 6 p.m., an hour before Santorum’s rally, in Royal Hall of the Holiday Inn of Fargo, Dalrymple will discuss how North Dakota can be a blueprint for the nation.

Springer writes for the Forum in Fargo

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