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BOISE -- Republicans are getting what they wanted today, a major presidential candidate bringing his campaign to the Gem state. Rick Santorum is the first to hold a free public rally in anticipation of Idaho's caucus on Super Tuesday in March.

He is scheduled to take the stage at 7 p.m. tonight at Capital High School.

In Coeur d'Alene earlier today, Santorum made a roughly half hour speech, followed by an hour of questions.

The bulk of his speech focused on minimizing the government's role in the lives of Americans.

He criticized President Barack Obama's administration for -- in Santorum's words -- trying to create an 'equality of income distribution.'

Santorum also spoke of religious freedom, saying current policies show 'open hostility to religion.'

Referencing the recent contraception debate, Santorum says the current administration is forcing religious people to do what the government tells them to do.

When the government gives you rights, not God, but government, when the government goes around saying we're going to give you the right to health care, they can tell you how to exercise that right because now they own you, said Santorum.

As for strictly Idaho or Northwest issues, there was not a lot of talk today.

He touched on border security, including the northern border, and commended the senators and representatives from Idaho, saying they come from solid, conservative stock.

Santorum's momentum is gaining according to new national poll, numbers that show him in a virtual tie with Mitt Romney. The Pew Research Center Poll shows Santorum with 30 percent support among Republican voters and Romney at 28 percent.

The auditorium at Capital High can hold 1,280 people. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

On Friday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be in Boise for a fundraising lunch at the Grove Hotel. Tickets for the lunch are $1,000 a person. People who donate $2,500 will be able to have their pictures taken with Romney at a VIP reception.

Romney will also hold a rally at 1:30 p.m. Guerdon Enterprises in Boise on Friday. The company, which manufactures modular buildings, is located at 5556 South Federal Way.

The candidates are vying for the 32 delegates up for grabs in the state's March 6 caucus. Idaho GOP officials moved the contest to Super Tuesday this year from its usual May date in hopes of making the caucus more relevant.

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