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Santorum calls Romney's conservative attack 'absolutely laughable'

February 25, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Rick Santorum speaks at a Metro Detroit Freedom Coalition Tea Party rally Saturday in St. Clair Shores, Mich.
Rick Santorum speaks at a Metro Detroit Freedom Coalition Tea Party rally… (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images )

Reporting from St. Claire Shores, Mich. — Rick Santorum lashed out at Mitt Romney on Saturday, likening his chief rival for the GOP nomination to President Obama and scoffing at his charge that Santorum was not conservative.

"It's laughable for Gov. Romney to suggest I am not a conservative. It is absolutely laughable to have a liberal governor of Massachusetts suggest that I am not a conservative," Santorum said, ticking off a list of positions that Romney has taken, such as supporting the Wall Street bailout and creating a state healthcare plan that was a model for President Obama's plan.

Romney, he said, has shifted his ideology when it suited him, running as a liberal for the Senate, a moderate for governor and now a conservative for president.

"Folks, this is an issue of trust," he told a few hundred supporters at a tea party rally. "Imagine what he's going to do when he's in the general  election."

He criticized the tax plan Romney laid out earlier in the week that would reduce all income tax rates by 20%, noting that Romney said he would make the plan revenue-neutral by limiting mortgage and charitable deductions for the "top 1%."

"To 1%, hmmm, where have I heard that before," Santorum said. "We have a Republican running for president who's campaigning as an Occupy Wall Streeter."

"What is Gov. Romney doing? He's adopting President Obama's plan to limit contributions to the very institutions that allow limited government to work. He doesn't understand how America works any more than Barack Obama understands how America works," Santorum  said.

One man in the audience asked Santorum why it appeared that Ron Paul was teaming up with Romney during Wednesday's debate in Mesa, Ariz.

"Seriously, don't stand between them anymore," the man said.

Santorum agreed, calling Paul Romney's "wingman," and said that Paul has consistently attacked whoever is Romney's most potent challenger, previously Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and now himself.

"The coordination I felt at that debate the other night was pretty clear – it felt like messages were being slipped behind my chair," Santorum said, adding that Paul isn't campaigning in Michigan but is running ads attacking Santorum there. "I felt like the inspector at the end of 'Casablanca.'"

In a reflection of how tight the race is in Michigan, Romney's campaign dispatched a surrogate, Michigan Rep. Aric Nesbitt, to counter Santorum's arguments at the event, a tactic they employed against Newt Gingrich when he was surging, and one they have not deployed against Santorum previously.

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