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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / campaign 2012

Romney Attacks Santorum as Fake Conservative

Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in happier days.(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

photo of Sarah B. Boxer
February 17, 2012

BOISE, Idaho -- After relying on surrogates and television ads to soften up rival Rick Santorum, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney personally attacked Santorum on the campaign trail Friday, saying he has falsely claimed to be a fiscal conservative and was a “big proponent of earmarks” when he served in the Senate.

“If you want a fiscal conservative, you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not a deficit hawk. I am,” the former Massachusetts governor told more than 350 people gathered to hear him speak at Guerdon Enterprises. “I’m a fiscal conservative. I’ll balance the budget.”

Romney also blasted his chief rival on his economic record and support for congressional earmarks.

“I know that Senator Santorum is getting his moment in the spotlight now, which is a good thing," Romney said. “I hope people take a very close look at his record because he was in Congress for about 20 years, and during that time the size of the federal government doubled during his time in office. And by the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts.

 

“And he’s a big proponent of earmarks. He voted for billions of dollars of earmarks, including the bridge to nowhere,” Romney said, a reference to the now-scrapped bridge that had been planned for a tiny community in Alaska.

“If you want a fiscal conservative, you’re going to have to vote for me,” he said as the crowd cheered.

If there was ever a day for Romney to go on offense against Santorum, Friday was as good a day as any. Romney woke up in the Cleveland area in the morning to news that a key supporter in the Buckeye State, Attorney General Mike DeWine, was switching his endorsement to Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

Romney was asked by reporters about the switch on his way out of the Boise rally, but he ignored the question. Another Romney supporter, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, downplayed the DeWine development in a conference call with reporters: “The most important thing you can get from an endorser is their organization. And frankly, as I understand it, attorney generals don’t have that much of a political organization.”

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