Jelly Beans, Ronald Reagan and Rick Santorum

Santorum to deliver a major speech on healthcare at Jelly Belly headquarters.

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum greets people during a campaign rally at the Dayton Christian School in Miamisburg, Ohio.

On Thursday, Rick Santorum will make what his campaign is calling a major healthcare reform speech in California. California's primary is over two months away, and Santorum has a lot of campaigning to do in other states ahead of that contest in order to challenge Mitt Romney for a share of the state's 172 delegates. Santorum's campaign has been known for their relentless zig-zagging across crucial states in the days immediately preceding nominating contests, and with important votes in Maryland and Wisconsin coming up on Tuesday, some may be wondering why Santorum picked California as the place to deliver his next major speech.

The answer is jelly beans.

[See pictures of Rick Santorum on the campaign trail.]

Santorum will deliver his speech Thursday at the Jelly Belly headquarters in Fairfield, Calif. If healthcare and jelly beans seems like an odd pairing, consider that Santorum's hero—Ronald Reagan—was practically obsessed with the sugary treats.

The story goes that in 1967, when Reagan become the governor of California, he used jelly beans as an aid to help him quit smoking his pipe, and they quickly became his favorite candy. For his presidential inauguration in 1981, Jelly Belly developed the blueberry bean so that there would be red, white and blue beans at the festivities. Reagan would frequently pass around a bowl of the candy at cabinet meetings, and he was once quoted as saying, "You can tell a lot about a fella's character by whether he picks out all of one color or just grabs a handful." He even sent jelly beans to space, surprising the crew of the shuttle Challenger in 1983 by secretly including them in the manifest. A portrait of the former president made out of 10,000 jelly beans hangs at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

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Knowing that, Santorum's stop in California makes a bit more sense since observers say he never seems to pass up an opportunity to invoke Reagan's name. Ahead of the Illinois primary last week, the former Pennsylvania senator campaigned in Reagan's hometown, proclaiming, "Let the voice of Reagan be heard across this land," in front of a statue of the former president on horseback. Likewise, he compared himself to The Gipper in his latest victory speech in Louisiana, explaining that he too was called too conservative to win the Republican nomination in 1976.

Santorum has frequently explained his plans to cut the country's top tax rate to 28 percent by saying, "If it's good enough for Ronald Reagan, it's good enough for me." Apparently, that covers snack foods as well.

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