WHEELING - The 2012 presidential election gets its Ohio Valley start today, as former Sen. Rick Santorum is set to bring his message of fiscal responsibility to Wheeling.
The Pennsylvania Republican will be the keynote speaker at a luncheon sponsored by the West Liberty University Economics Club, set for noon at the Capitol Theatre Ballroom. The event is open to the public, and lunch will be provided at a cost.
Erik Root, director of the Center for Economic Philosophy at West Liberty University, said Santorum's appearance comes during an interesting time in Washington, as Congress debates whether to raise the debt ceiling.
"Sen. Santorum has been one of the leading voices for fiscal responsibility in the country over a number of years," said Root. "We're looking forward to hearing his thoughts, especially in light of the debt crisis issue that our country is facing."
Santorum is the first announced candidate for president in 2012 to stop in the Ohio Valley in preparation for next year's primary election. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia spoke at Franciscan University of Steubenville earlier this year, prior to announcing his candidacy.
Santorum, 53, was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990 at age 32. He was elected to the Senate in 1995 and served there until being defeated by Sen. Bob Casey Jr. in 2006.
His visit to Wheeling comes as West Virginia Republican Executive Committee members plan to meet this weekend in Shepherdstown, W.Va., to discuss a possible GOP convention in early March to select the state's Republican presidential candidate. The Republican National Committee has allocated to West Virginia 31 delegates in the national presidential selection process - one more than in 2008 due to the election of Rep. David McKinley.