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Santorum Sounds Like Ultimate Washington Insider in Debate Santorum Sounds Like Ultimate Washington Insider in Debate

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Santorum Sounds Like Ultimate Washington Insider in Debate

For more than a year, Rick Santorum has labored to cast himself as an outsider ready to go to Washington to challenge business as usual, which makes it all the more puzzling why he decided to use the crucial debate in Mesa to sound like the ultimate Washington insider. Over and over again, Santorum came off as a defender of Congress, a champion of earmarks and a master of legislative minutiae.

Legislative ratings, Title X, Title XX, earmarks, voting for things you opposed - these are the things that the former Pennsylvania senator talked about. At one point, his tortured explanation prompted Mitt Romney to admit -- or taunt -- he hadn't understood what Santorum was talking about. At other points, his inside-Washington talk and use of legislative jargon set him up for jabs and jibes from Rep. Ron Paul.

It could not have been what Santorum wanted to do in what could be the final Republican debate, the first one held since Santorum surged into the lead in many polls. Perhaps his worst moment was his attempt to explain why he voted for No Child Left Behind even though he opposed it. There were echoes of John Kerry's "I voted for it before I voted against it" only without Kerry's coherence. He said he voted for it because President George W. Bush asked him to do so. "I have to admit I voted for that. It was against the principles I believed in. But, you know, when you're part of the team sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader. And I made a mistake." Not a great answer when you're running to be a leader of a party deeply suspicious of Washington's ways.

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