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Republican links Mandela apartheid fight to Obamacare

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, March 1
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) speaks to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, March 1

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rick Santorum, a former and possibly future Republican presidential candidate, offered a tribute to Nelson Mandela that linked the late South African leader's fight against apartheid to the U.S. battle over Obamacare.

Both struggles - one involving racial segregation and the other expansion of government as seen in President Barack Obama's 2010 healthcare law - were against "great injustices," Santorum said on Fox News after Mandela's death Thursday night.

"Nelson Mandela stood up against a great injustice and was willing to pay a huge price for that, and that's the reason he is mourned today, because of that struggle that he performed," the former Pennsylvania senator said on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor."

"And I would make the argument that we have a great injustice going on right now in this country with an ever increasing size of government that is taking over and controlling people's lives, and Obamacare is front and center in that."

Santorum, a champion of the Christian right and family values, presented himself as a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican presidential primaries.

He won 11 states in the 2012 primary season but had his share of gaffes, including when he said he did not care about the U.S. unemployment rate in a campaign largely focused on the sputtering economy.

Santorum has not ruled out another presidential run in 2016, and he clearly had elections on his mind Thursday night.

"The center focus of the 2014 election must be Obamacare," he said on Fox, referring to next year's congressional races.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Eric Beech)

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