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Originally published Monday, February 13, 2012 at 8:17 PM

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Santorum calls Occupy protesters 'radical element'

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum clashed with Tacoma Occupy protesters Monday night during his first visit to a state he said would be a "momentum changer" heading into Super Tuesday.

Associated Press

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TACOMA, Wash. —

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum clashed with Tacoma Occupy protesters Monday night during his first visit to a state he said would be a "momentum changer" heading into Super Tuesday.

Minutes into Santorum's speech, protesters began chanting and shouting. They rarely stopped over the next half-hour.

"I think it's really important to understand what this radical element represents," Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told hundreds of supporters gathered outside the Washington Historical Museum. "What they represent is true intolerance."

Police dragged away two protesters in the midst of Santorum's speech.

The event took place next to the Occupy protest camp site. Santorum, who trails rival Mitt Romney in fundraising and organization, depended on the Washington Republican Party to organize Monday's event.

"I understand their frustration. For three years they haven't been able to find work," Santorum said after his supporters chanted, "Get a job."

Santorum is the first Republican presidential candidate to visit Washington state this year. It holds nonbinding presidential caucuses on March 3.

Since winning three contests last week, Santorum has tried to portray the presidential contest as a two-man race with Romney. When he was able to ignore the protesters, he directed most of his criticism at President Barack Obama but took a swipe at the health care plan Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.

"RomneyCare was the model for ObamaCare," Santorum said.

He campaigns in Idaho Tuesday morning and will visit North Dakota, Michigan and Ohio later in the week.

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