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Santorum: Romney 'a lightweight on conservative accomplishments'

February 28, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum hugs his wife, Karen, at his campaign field office in Grands Rapids, Mich.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum hugs his wife, Karen,… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

Reporting from Grand Rapids, Mich. — Rick Santorum slashed at Mitt Romney’s argument that he was an economic lightweight, saying on Tuesday that while his rival for the GOP presidential nomination may have been successful in business, he had no conservative victories.

“Gov. Romney has zero,” Santorum told reporters after greeting volunteers at a phone bank here hours before polls closed in Tuesday’s critical Michigan primary. “He is a lightweight on conservative accomplishments, which happens to be more important than how much success and how much money you've made in business.”

Santorum urged Republican voters to note that he was doing well in the states that could play pivotal roles in the general election against President Obama.

“I mean if you look at where Gov. Romney is doing well -- in New England and in the Mountain West, it's not a very good combination for Republicans to deliver victory,” Santorum said. “It’s through the Midwest, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, you know, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, that’s where this race is going to be won or lost, and that’s where we’re running very, very strongly.”

Santorum pushed back at Romney’s criticism of a robocall Santorum is making to the state’s Democrats urging them to cast ballots for him the polls, noting that Romney courted independents and moderates who made up a majority of those who voted in New Hampshire’s primary in January.

“I don't remember Mitt Romney running around and doing anything but trying to encourage Democrats and Independents to vote for him in N.H. When he does that it’s ok, and in so doing trying to appeal as moderate to get them to vote for him,” Santorum said. “I’m appealing to them as conservatives and saying please vote for the conservative that is out there and trying to create jobs in manufacturing that hopefully will appeal to a lot of blue-collar Democrats in this state and I welcome their vote. I welcome anybody's vote who shares my values and wants to see America go in that direction.”

But Santorum has previously criticized the strategy of having Democrats vote in GOP primaries, as CNN reported on Tuesday.

“We want the activists of the party, the people who make up the backbone of the Republican Party to have a say in who our nominee is as opposed to a bunch of people who don't even identify themselves as Republicans picking our nominee," Santorum told voters on a tele-town hall with Minnesota voters on Jan. 29. "I don't like that. I believe that states should only allow Republicans to vote in Republican primaries."

Santorum also slightly walked back a claim he made the previous day that gas prices caused the nation's economic crisis, arguing that a spike in fuel costs contributed to the recession.

Santorum declined to speculate whether he would win Michigan. Asked as he entered his campaign headquarters with his new Secret Service detail, Santorum shrugged and said, “I’m not a pollster. We don’t even have a pollster.”

Santorum and his wife, Karen, called voters urging them to support him at the polls. Some did not believe that it was really the former Pennsylvania senator on their phones.

“When I say their name, that usually tips them off it’s not a recorded call. Robocalls I understand are a very controversial thing these days,” he said with a smirk.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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