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Rick Santorum attacks Obama over welfare reform waiver. Was that fair?

Rick Santorum attacked President Obama in his speech for the GOP convention, repeating a common criticism that Obama has watered down welfare reform. Fact-checkers say the claim is not true, but it fit well into Tuesday's 'We Built It' theme. 

By Staff writer / August 28, 2012

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum addresses to delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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TAMPA, Fla.

He was one of Mitt Romney’s fiercest competitors for the Republican presidential nomination.

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But on Tuesday, at the opening night of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Rick Santorum played the loyal soldier to his party’s standard-bearer, launching a spirited attack against President Obama over welfare reform and reinforcing his own brand as an impassioned opponent of abortion.

Mr. Santorum, who emerged as the favorite of social conservatives during the primaries, also made much of his own experiences on the campaign trail, suggesting the 50-something former senator from Pennsylvania may want to take another run at the presidency, either in four or eight years.

But Santorum’s first order of business was to make the case against Mr. Obama.

“Under President Obama, the dream of freedom and opportunity has become a nightmare of dependency with almost half of America receiving some sort of government assistance,” Santorum said.  

“This summer,” the ex-senator continued, “he showed us once again he believes in government handouts and dependency by waiving the work requirement for welfare.”

Fact-checkers deny that the Obama administration has eliminated the work requirement attached to the 1996 welfare reform. The waivers, some given at the request of Republican governors, give states flexibility in how they handle their welfare rolls, as long as they maintain a 20 percent increase in the number of people getting work.

But it’s campaign season, and welfare is a hot topic – ready made for the night of the convention dubbed “We Built It,” which centers on the theme of hard work. And the Republicans have no better amplifier of hot-button social issues than Santorum.  

The Pennsylvanian was scheduled to speak early in the evening, but convention organizers were reportedly so excited about his remarks that they moved him later, to the 9 o’clock hour, not far from the evening’s highlights, speeches by Romney’s wife, Ann, and keynoter Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey.

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