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Romney takes gentle swipe at Santorum at Iowa stop

January 01, 2012|By Seema Mehta
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Reporting from Atlantic, Iowa — Mitt Romney, facing an insurgent challenge in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses, greeted voters at a diner here on Sunday and took only the gentlest jabs at Rick Santorum, who has surged suddenly in the polls.

Asked by reporters what differentiated himself from the former Pennsylvania senator, Romney declined to discuss policy differences and said Santorum was a “good guy” who supported his unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.

“Sen. Santorum was kind enough to endorse me last time around. I appreciate that and we’ve been friends,” he said. “I can tell you that our backgrounds are quite different. Like Speaker Gingrich, Sen. Santorum spent his career in government in Washington. Nothing wrong with that. But it’s a very different background than I have. I think the people of this country recognize with our economy as the major issue we face right now, it would be helpful to have someone who understands the economy firsthand, whose spent the bulk of his career working in the private sector.”

Romney batted back against Newt Gingrich’s claim that he would buy the election if he could, pointing to the former House Speaker’s fundraising.

“Let’s see, Speaker Gingrich I think announced he raised $10 million this quarter? He ought to be proud of that,” Romney said. “We’re working hard to raise funds as well.”

Romney said he raised more in the 4th quarter of 2011 than any previous quarter, but declined to release a figure.

Romney made the remarks after speaking briefly with voters at the Family Table restaurant. Unlike most Romney events, the event was a spectacle. Reporters and photographers outnumbered voters at the event, and the employees of the diner grew overtly frustrated by the jostling hordes. When speaking to voters, Romney did not mention his GOP rivals in his remarks, only criticizing President Obama as an abject failure in domestic and foreign policies.

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