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Santorum: I Will Vote for the GOP Nominee Even If It’s Not Me Santorum: I Will Vote for the GOP Nominee Even If It’s Not Me Santorum: I Will Vote for the GOP Nominee Even If It’s Not Me Santorum: I Will Vote for...

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

Santorum: I Will Vote for the GOP Nominee Even If It’s Not Me

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum: "I'm for defeating Barack Obama."(Chet Susslin)

March 23, 2012

WEST MONROE, La.--Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum promised to support the eventual GOP nominee over President Obama after suggesting a day earlier that Republicans might as well vote for the Democratic incumbent because the party’s front-runner, Mitt Romney, is no better.

“I’ve said repeatedly and will continue to say, I’ll vote for whoever the Republican nominee is; I mean, I’ll work for them. Barack Obama is a disaster,” Santorum told reporters after a rally here on Friday. “But we can’t have someone who agrees with him on some of the biggest issues of the day. And that’s the problem with Governor Romney. He doesn’t provide the clear choice that we need in order to win this election.”

During his speech, he told the audience, “I’m for defeating Barack Obama, and I’m going to support whoever wins the Republican primary,” but he added: “We shouldn’t nominate people who deliberately went in and made bad decisions.”

 

Santorum appeared to be backtracking from remarks on Thursday, when he said in San Antonio, “If you’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future.” His reference to the child’s toy was a riff on comments by Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom that the campaign could be shaken up and wiped clean in the fall like an Etch A Sketch.

The Romney campaign quickly fired back, saying that any Republican would be preferable to Obama. By Friday, the former senator from Pennsylvania found himself forced to reassure people that he was committed to beating Obama. Yet his campaign was still sending mixed messages. “I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous,” Santorum said in a statement.
 
Yet he went on to attack Romney again. “This is just another attempt by the Romney campaign to distort and distract the media and voters from the unshakable fact that many of Romney's policies mirror Barack Obama's,” the statement read. “I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney, and it’s easy to see why. Romney has sided with Obama on health care mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts.  Voters have to be excited enough to actually go vote, and my campaign's movement to restore freedom is exciting this nation.

“If this election is about Obama versus the Obama-lite candidate, we [will] have a tough time rallying this nation.”

Candidate Newt Gingrich typically bashes the media for being unfair to him, but in this case, he said he thought the media was being more than fair to Santorum for reporting what he said.

“I’m often cheerful about bashing the media,” the former House speaker said at an event in Port Fourchon, La. “I think it was Santorum who said it. So it’s a little tricky for him to attack them for reporting what he said. I’m pretty sure the videotape shows him saying it.”

As the day wore on, Santorum continued to be dogged by questions about his Obama remarks, seemingly wiping out any political mileage he had gotten from the Romney aide’s Etch A Sketch comment. During a heated telephone interview with Fox News interviewer Neil Cavuto, Santorum called the story "the hatchet job of all time," and termed any suggestions he might support Obama over Romney “absurd.”

“I’ve always said I’d never vote for Barack Obama, are you kidding me? What do you think I’m doing this for? You think because I like Barack Obama? It’s so absurd, it’s not even worth printing,” he said.

Santorum insisted that he has always said he would support anyone on the Republican ticket, even Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian with whom he differs on foreign-policy issues.

Sarah Huisenga contributed contributed to this article.

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