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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field

CAMPAIGN 2012

Santorum Defends Record Against Romney Attacks

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Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum(Chet Susslin)

DETROIT – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum veered from a speech at the Detroit Economic Club on Thursday to defend his record against sustained attacks by rival Mitt Romney, who is trying to slow Santorum’s momentum ahead of the state’s Feb. 28 primary.

Santorum defended his spending record in Congress and his support for private-sector unions and criticized Romney’s support for the government’s 2008 rescue of the financial industry. 
 
“Now I know you folks here in Michigan have been hearing some things on the television from one of my opponents that I am a big spender,” Santorum said. “I was the most conservative senator, by far, based on the state I represented and the spending record I had,” he said, citing a National Taxpayers Union report giving him good marks for his record on federal spending when he served in the Senate from 2001 to 2006.
 
The Romney campaign has held nearly daily conference calls in the last week to discuss Santorum’s support for spending earmarks in Congress, and a pro-Romney super PAC is gearing up a multimillion-dollar ad campaign expected in part to target Santorum. The Romney campaign has also claimed Santorum is cozy with “big labor” for his support of some unions. Santorum has also spoke with admiration about his grandfather, a coal miner and treasurer of his union.
 
“I have no problem with private-sector unions,” Santorum said in his remarks on Thursday. “I think they play a role in society. I’m someone who does believe that people should have the right to work.” But public-sector unions, he said, have an “intrinsically unfair bargaining position” because they negotiate with government officials who are the custodians of the taxpayers’ money.

“Where these folks are receiving benefits, getting dues paid from state and local taxpayers, that they then turn around and help elect the people who sit on the other side of the bargaining table with them. That creates a, well I just think an ugly situation in America, an unfair situation in America,” he said.
 
Taking Romney to task for his support for the bailout of the financial industry, Santorum said, “My feeling was that … the government should not be involved in bailouts, period. I think that’s a much more consistent position.”

 

Santorum also found himself in the odd position of defending President Obama on the issue of government bailouts, saying he blamed President George W. Bush for setting the precedent and that Obama was “just following suit.”
 
And he suggested that the auto industry would have recovered just fine without its government bailout. Romney also opposed the auto bailout.  
 
“Would the auto industry look different than it does today? Yes it would be. Would it be alive and well? I think it would be alive and equally as well if not better. Why? Because markets would have had to react and do what was necessary to structure it to be competitive,” he said.

Santorum's speech to the group was largely an outline of his economic positions, which includes a focus on strengthening the family as a means of improving the economy, expanding domestic energy production, and offering tax breaks to the manufacturing sector.

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