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Romney blasts Santorum's debate explanation for votes in Congress

February 23, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Mitt Romney speaks at a national conference for builders and contractors in Phoenix; Arizona and Michigan will hold primaries Tuesday.
Mitt Romney speaks at a national conference for builders and contractors… (Ethan Miller / Getty Images )

Reporting from Phoenix — Mitt Romney hit rival Rick Santorum on Thursday for his debate performance the prior night, saying his explanations for why he voted in opposition to his principles showed he was a creature of Washington who sided with special interests rather than the American people.

"We saw in this case Sen. Santorum explain most of the night why he did or voted for things he disagreed with, and he talked about this as being taking one for the team. I wonder which team he was taking it for," Romney said, speaking to a trade group of builders and contractors. "My team is the American people, not the insiders of Washington, and I'll fight for the people of America, not special interests."

Romney was referring to a Santorum response during Wednesday's debate to an audience member's question about No Child Left Behind, President Bush's signature education reform law that is now reviled by conservative voters. He said he voted for the measure out of loyalty to his party.

"It was against the principles I believe, but when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake," he said, and some in the audience booed.

Santorum has been surging in the race for the GOP nomination, challenging Romney, and they face critical tests Tuesday, when Arizona and Michigan will hold primaries. Santorum had been rising in the polls, but Romney appeared to be rebounding, with his campaign growing increasingly confident the former Massachusetts governor will win both contests Tuesday.

During the debate in Mesa, Ariz., Santorum also explained why he voted for appropriation bills that included federal  funding for Planned Parenthood. Romney mentioned that vote, but also said inaccurately that Santorum explained several other votes against his principles during the debate, such as opposing the repeal of a right-to-work law.

"I don't think I've ever seen a politician explain in so many ways why he voted against his principles," Romney said. "I will tell you if I'm president of the United States, I will abide by my principles and my team will be the people of the United States of America."

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