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THE NATION : CAMPAIGN 2012

Bashing Obama on both coasts

As the Supreme Court weighs the healthcare law, Santorum in D.C. and Romney in San Diego pledge a repeal.

March 27, 2012|Maeve Reston and Seema Mehta
  • Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at NuVasive, a medical device company in San Diego, during a campaign swing in California.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at NuVasive, a medical… (Steven Senne, Associated…)

SAN DIEGO — Republican presidential candidates renewed their criticism of President Obama's healthcare program Monday in a double-barreled assault from both coasts.

Standing before a "Repeal and Replace Obamacare" banner at a medical device manufacturer in San Diego as he opened a campaign swing in the state, Mitt Romney called the president's policies "an attack on free enterprise, an attack on economic freedom unlike anything we have ever seen before."

"We've got to make sure that we replace President Obama with someone who truly understands what it is that makes America's economy work," Romney said.

Decrying a tax on medical devices that is a component of the healthcare law, he argued that the Obama administration was thwarting the endeavors of entrepreneurs like NuVasive's chief executive "tax by tax, regulator by regulator, regulation by regulation."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, March 28, 2012 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 57 words Type of Material: Correction
GOP race: An article in the March 27 Section A about Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum criticizing President Obama's healthcare program during campaign appearances said that Romney supporters were asked to contribute as much as $25,000 to attend a California fundraiser for the candidate. In fact, they were asked to raise up to $25,000.

"Washington is crushing the dreams, and crushing the dreamers. We can't let it happen," he said.

Rick Santorum, who has doggedly criticized the healthcare program his rival Romney pushed as Massachusetts governor as "the blueprint" for Obama's law, made an unannounced stop outside the Supreme Court, where the first day of arguments were being held in a challenge to the law.

He called for its repeal and underscored what he says is a key argument for his candidacy -- that he would be a stronger adversary against Obama in November.

"There's only one candidate who has a chance of winning the Republican nomination, who can make this [Obama's healthcare law] the central issue, a winning issue for winning the presidency back, and that's Rick Santorum," the former senator from Pennsylvania said. "The worst person to make that case is Mitt Romney."

Later, in an interview on CNN, Santorum chided Romney for campaigning in California. "The whole world is watching what's going on here in Washington," he said. "Mitt Romney is 3,000 miles away. He should be here."

Romney, who has defended his Massachusetts healthcare mandate as an appropriate statewide approach, brushed aside Santorum's criticism by asserting that he was "not going to worry too much about what Rick is saying these days."

Romney's speech at NuVasive, whose chief executive, Alexis V. Lukianov, is an avowed critic of the Obama healthcare law, was a brief diversion from his main objective in California: raising money.

Over two days, he plans to hold five fundraisers headlined by leading figures in the state Republican establishment: 2010 gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman, former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan, real estate mogul Donald Bren and former Gov. Pete Wilson.

Alex Spanos, owner of the San Diego Chargers, is hosting one of the fundraisers at his Villa Angelica mansion in Stockton. Dean Spanos, Alex's son and president of the Chargers, is leading another fundraiser at the U.S. Grant hotel in San Diego.

His star-studded political events stood in contrast to those of Santorum, who will visit California later this week. While donors were asked to contribute as much as $25,000 at Romney's events, Santorum supporters were asked for a maximum of $2,500. Santorum's admirers may gain entree for as little as $125 at a dessert reception Thursday at the Alamo home of Ubokia.com Chief Executive Mark Pine. Hosts include former Rep. Bill Baker and tea party activist Bridget Melson.

Though Romney has built what his campaign views as an insurmountable lead in the Republican delegate count, his rivals have refused to step aside -- lending greater importance to California's June 5 primary, when 172 delegates will be at stake.

"I need you guys to get ready, to organize your effort, to get your friends to vote, to collect some money, to get campaign contributions," Romney said in San Diego on Monday. "We've got a ways to go."

A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll showed Romney drawing the support of 42% of registered Republican voters. Santorum trailed him by 19 percentage points, with Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul a distant third and fourth.

Gingrich and Santorum acknowledged Monday that they were unlikely to pass Romney in delegates through the remaining primaries, but they said the race for the nomination would go to the party convention in August.

"If he can get to 1,144, he's the nominee. But if he can't get to 1,144 on the 26th of June, the last primary, then it is going to be a wide-open electronic convention for 60 days of talking among the American people," Gingrich said on CNN.

Santorum, speaking on the same program, said the likelihood was that no candidate would accumulate enough delegates by the time the voting contests concluded.

"This race is going to -- is [in] all likelihood going to go to the convention," he said.

--

maeve.reston@latimes.com

seema.mehta@latimes.com

Reston reported from San Diego and Mehta from Los Angeles. Ian Duncan in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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