Bloomberg News

Santorum Says Romney ‘Uniquely Unqualified’ to Tackle Obama

February 27, 2012

Rick Santorum at stop at the St. Mary's Cultural & Banquet Center on Feb. 27, 2012 in Livonia, Michigan. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rick Santorum at stop at the St. Mary's Cultural & Banquet Center on Feb. 27, 2012 in Livonia, Michigan. Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Rick Santorum pressed his case today that the Republican Party would hurt its chances in November’s election if it nominates Mitt Romney because he has taken too many positions similar to those of President Barack Obama.

“We have an opportunity in this race to make this about Barack Obama and his failed policies,” Santorum told a business group in Livonia, Michigan. “We need a candidate who can make that point, who can make it on the big issues of the day -- energy, jobs and manufacturing, limited government -- important issues like health care and its effect on the economy.”

On the eve of primaries in Michigan and Arizona, Santorum charged that Romney’s support of health-care legislation as governor of Massachusetts would damage the party’s standing because it is similar to the federal law Obama pushed through Congress.

“Why would we give this issue away?” Santorum asked. “It is the biggest issue in this race. It’s about taking control of your economic lives.” Calling Romney “uniquely unqualified” to make the case against Obama, he said the party would be foolish to pick someone who “did Obamacare-lite.”

‘Washington Insider’

Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, responded in a statement by saying Santorum is a “Washington insider who is lashing out at Mitt Romney because his campaign is floundering.”

She noted that Santorum endorsed Romney’s failed 2008 presidential bid because of his “conservative” record. “Now, Rick’s changed his tune,” she said. “This sounds like another case of Rick Santorum abandoning his principles for his own political advantage.”

As the campaign in Michigan evolved over the last two weeks, Romney’s camp spotlighted Santorum’s career in Congress after polls showed the former Pennsylvania senator ahead. A Romney loss in Michigan, where he spent his boyhood and where his father, George Romney, served three terms as governor and was an automobile company chief executive, would undermine his claim of front-runner status in the Republican presidential nomination race.

Delegate Allocation

Polls now show a close contest in Michigan (BEESMI), while Romney leads in Arizona (BEESAZ). Michigan will award 30 delegates based on how the candidates do in each of the state’s congressional districts, while the winner in Arizona will get all 29 delegates there. That’s one reason Santorum has concentrated on Michigan, and it might mean that the overall vote-total winner in the state won’t necessarily collect the most convention delegates.

Neither of the two other Republican presidential contenders -- former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas -- has competed aggressively in Michigan, concentrating instead on states voting next month. Gingrich’s efforts appear set to get a boost -- Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp., is giving a fresh infusion of cash to a group supporting Gingrich, according to a person close to the organization who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss its finances.

The undisclosed amount of money will fund pro-Gingrich television ads to run in seven states that hold contests in early March, the person said.

The PAC, Winning Our Future, had $2.4 million as February started, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Almost all of its $11 million in donations in January came from Adelson and his wife, Miriam, each of whom gave $5 million, and Texas billionaire Harold Simmons, who donated $500,000. Data compiled by Bloomberg show that Adelson is among the top 20 wealthiest people in the world.

Changing Subject

As Romney wrapped up his Michigan campaigning, he sought to change the subject of the campaign debate following several days where Santorum highlighted social issues such as abortion, religion and birth control.

“It’s time for him to really focus on the economy,” Romney said today in Rockford, Michigan.

Asked about that comment following his Livonia appearance, Santorum responded: “Tell him to watch my speech.”

At a stop in Albion, Romney pointed to the government- related work Santorum and Gingrich, another Republican presidential candidate, did after leaving Congress.

“They worked for companies, for lobbying firms in Washington,” Romney said. “They worked as elected officials in Washington. That’s what they know. I spent 25 years working business. That’s what I know.”

Super Tuesday Momentum

Tomorrow’s primaries will determine who has the momentum heading into so-called Super Tuesday on March 6, when 11 states will hold contests. More than 400 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination will be at stake then.

In one of those March 6 states -- Ohio -- Santorum holds a lead over Romney among likely Republican voters, 36 percent to 29 percent, according to a poll by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University. The survey was taken Feb. 23-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

One unknown in Michigan is how many Democrats and independents will cast ballots in the open primary. Some members of the United Auto Workers have said they plan to vote for Santorum or Paul in a bid to extend the primary fight and prevent Romney from winning the state.

Romney, a former private equity executive, has made economic issues his campaign’s focus and has tried to use that experience to distinguish himself from his Republican rivals. Santorum’s focus on religion has diverted attention away from Romney’s economic message, forcing him to tackle issues he tends to be less comfortable discussing.

‘Nice Guy’

Romney, 64, today contrasted his business experience with Santorum’s background in Congress, casting his rival as a creature of Washington with little private-sector experience.

“I’ve spent 25 years in business. I understand why jobs go why they come,” Romney said. “Senator Santorum is a nice guy, but he’s never had a job in the private sector.”

Santorum continued to talk about the importance of religion in U.S. society.

“We hear so much about separation of church and state,” he said. “I’m for separation of church and state. The state has no business” telling churches what to do.

Santorum, 53, told reporters after his speech that he is pleased with his place in the race.

“We’re doing remarkably well for being as outspent as we are,” he said. “We feel very, very good about the reaction we’re getting as we travel around the state of Michigan, getting good crowds and obviously people are reacting well to our message.”

Ad Spending

Spending in Michigan on television commercials by Romney’s campaign and a political action committee backing him has outpaced expenditures on behalf of Santorum by a ratio of about 3-to-2, according to data from New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, a company that tracks advertising.

The Romney campaign and Restore Our Future spent $2.85 million to air ads 5,544 times on Michigan broadcast television stations through yesterday, CMAG reported. Santorum and the Red White and Blue Fund, a PAC supporting him, spent $1.94 million to air ads 4,749 times.

To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Livonia, Michigan at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net; Lisa Lerer in Albion, Michigan at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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