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U.S. Sen. Santorum speaks on Fla., future at Myrtle Beach area convention

Rick Santorum said he loves the people of Florida, but he thinks the Sunshine State should abide by the presidential primary schedule set by the Republican National Committee.

Speaking at Saturday's Horry County Republican Party Convention, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania talked about Florida's plan to have its primary in January, which would precede the traditional early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

"The Republican Party sets the rules," Santorum said. No one state should be able to just up and say they disagree with the RNC, he added.

Florida's decision to have its GOP primary on Jan. 31 would displace South Carolina's status as the first-in-the-South primary state.

South Carolina GOP Chairwoman Karen Floyd said Thursday she has sent RNC members letters calling for Tampa to lose the 2012 convention if Florida breaks theparty's order for states to choose a nominee.

"Florida's obviously a critically important state in the primary," Santorum said.

As to whether he'd be making a bid to be the GOP's 2012 presidential nominee, Santorum is still mulling it over.

"When you have seven children, you've got a lot to discern," he said before a packed cafeteria of mostly older residents at Carolina Forest High School.

Following his speech, Santorum said he'd be making a decision within the next few weeks.

If he does run, what will be the focus point of his campaign?

Repealing President Obama's health care overhaul.

"It's hurting our economy," Santorum said. "It's hurting our health care system. It's driving up costs right now and it's going to tip the balance against the individual in favor of government."

Santorum said the increases in regulations and premiums in the health care overhaul have a "chilling effect" on businesses and "raise the level of uncertainty."

He added that the health care changes create a huge addition to the deficit, at $2 trillion over the first 10 years that it's implemented.

That estimate isn't widely shared, however. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that the law will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next decade. Republicans dispute that figure, with the GOP-controlled House Budget Committee estimating it will add $701 billion to the deficit.

It was Santorum's second visit to the area in two months. He spoke to the Myrtle Beach Tea Party in early February.

In his speech Saturday, Santorum compared the country's attitude to a story in which several frogs are sitting in a pot of water.

If the heat is slowly turned up, the frogs will sit there and eventually boil to death.

"But if you turn the heat up quickly, the frogs will jump out," Santorum said. "Barack Obama's done a great favor to the country by turning the heat up quickly."

The tale received loud applause from the audience of several hundred strong.

Santorum began his speech by proclaiming the 2012 election will be the most important of their lifetime. He also asked for their prayers as he considers his political future.

"The times make us great, and this is your time. Be great," Santorum said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.