Bloomberg News

Romney Casts Self as Washington Outsider in Targeting Santorum

February 28, 2012

(For more on the campaign, ELECT.)

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Mitt Romney pitched himself as a Washington outsider to Tea Party activists in Michigan as he tried to take advantage of debate comments that left his leading opponent in the Republican presidential race on the defensive.

Returning to his native state for a final push ahead of its Feb. 28 primary, Romney last night took aim at former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania without mentioning him by name.

“People go to Washington and they vote for things that they don’t believe in,” Romney told a standing-room-only audience of about 400 at a banquet hall in suburban Detroit.

The former Massachusetts governor was spotlighting Santorum’s remarks in the Feb. 22 debate in Arizona that he had voted for proposals in Congress that he has since said violated his fiscal and moral principles. Describing politics as a “team sport,” Santorum said he backed legislation such as then- President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind education measure to “take one for the team.”

Santorum’s explanation could undercut his efforts to cast himself as the most committed conservative in the Republican race and the candidate who most consistently stands by his convictions.

Romney, in his bid to capitalize on the opening, told his listeners in Milford, Michigan, that one of his opponents had spent most of the debate “describing why it was that he voted against his principles.”

‘My Team’

He added: “Well, my team is the people of the United States of America.”

Romney follows up his appeal to the Tea Party grassroots movement with a midday speech today to the Detroit Economic Club. His audience of business leaders should provide a friendly environment for the former private equity executive. Outside the hall, the atmosphere may be more hostile.

The United Auto Workers union has called on its members to stage a protest, drawing attention to Romney’s continued opposition to the $82 billion federal bailout of the automotive industry that was backed by President Barack Obama.

Santorum raised money in Texas yesterday with an appearance before the political action committee that is supporting him, the Red White and Blue Fund. He is scheduled to campaign today and part of tomorrow in Michigan, where his campaign is pushing to deal Romney an embarrassing setback. Polls show a close race between the two.

Ad Spending

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

The Romney campaign and the super-PAC Restore Our Future, which independently promotes his candidacy, spent $1.97 million to air ads 3,718 times on Michigan broadcast television stations through Feb. 22, CMAG reported. Santorum and the Red White and Blue Fund spent $1.25 million to air ads 3,178 times. The two super-PACs paid for 4,077 of the 6,896 ads, or 59 percent of the total.

Obama’s re-election campaign yesterday started running its own ad in Michigan with an eye to the state’s importance in November’s general election. The spot is critical of the opposition among all the Republican presidential candidates to the auto industry bailout.

U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich also are contending for the Republican nomination.

Tax Plan

Romney in his speech today is expected to highlight the tax plan he outlined earlier this week. It calls for a 20 percent across-the-board cut in individual income tax rates and would also lower the top rate to 28 percent, from 35 percent, for individuals, while limiting the deductions, exemptions and credits now available to higher-income Americans.

Romney told the Tea Party activists -- who support lower federal spending and taxes -- that he wants to eliminate the deductions to “maintain progressivity of the code.”

Arizona also has a Feb. 28 primary. On March 6 -- Super Tuesday -- 11 states hold contests in which more than 400 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination are at stake.

Romney began yesterday in Arizona, delivering much the same message he did later in Michigan. Referring to Santorum’s debate comments, he told a building trade group in Phoenix, “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a politician explain in so many ways why it was he voted against his principles.”

Underscoring that it is looking beyond the Feb. 28 votes, Romney’s campaign announced that today it will formally open headquarters in Ohio, one of the states with a March 6 primary. Headlining the event in Columbus will be U.S. Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican backing Romney.

--With assistance from Greg Giroux in Washington. Editors: Don Frederick, Jim Rubin

John McCormick in Milford, Michigan at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net; Lisa Lerer in Mesa, Arizona, at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the reporters on this story:

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


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