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Romney, Santorum go toe-to-toe in back-to-back speeches in Troy


This news story was published on February 26, 2012.
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By Kathleen Gray and Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press –

TROY, Mich. — Republican presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney took turns bashing each other Saturday — a few hours apart — in front of about 1,200 people in Troy.

The crowd at the event, sponsored by the tea-party-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, showed more enthusiasm for Santorum.

Santorum said voters should rule out voting for Romney because, as the author of Massachusetts’ health care plan when he was governor, Romney couldn’t capitalize on what Santorum said is the biggest issue of the campaign: repealing federal health care reform.

“Why would we nominate someone who is uniquely unqualified to take on the biggest issues of today?” Santorum said.

The jabs drew standing ovations and cheers.

When Romney spoke two hours after Santorum, he criticized the former senator from Pennsylvania for supporting earmarks and raising the debt ceiling, and flip-flopping on opposing funding for No Child Left Behind and Planned Parenthood. But the crowd didn’t react.

“I can attest to my conservative credentials because one of the people who endorsed me in 2008 was Sen. Santorum,” Romney said. “I’m the conservative candidate, and what we need in the White House is principled conservative leadership. I’ll bring it.”

Their lines drawing the most applause came at the expense of President Barack Obama.

“President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob,” Santorum said. “There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day who aren’t taught by some liberal college professor. Obama just wants to remake you into his image.”

Romney added, “He’s out of ideas, and in 2012, he’s going to be out of office.”

John Jimenez, 38, of Shelby Township said that if he had to cast a ballot right now, it would probably be for Santorum, “but I’m still open. I heard more specifics from Romney today than I ever have before.”

He really wants to vote for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, “but I don’t think he can overcome his deficit in the polls.”

Pat McCaffrey, 52, of Royal Oak said she’ll spend the weekend mulling what Romney and Santorum said Saturday.

“Romney has a solid background in finances, but I line up more with Santorum’s values,” she said. “I think Romney may be a more formidable candidate.”

In Lansing, Romney spoke at the Ingham County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day breakfast and pledged to restore a sense of American exceptionalism and opportunity if elected and put an end to what he called Obama’s “entitlement nation.”

“This election is about the soul of America,” Romney told an audience of about 400 at the event.

The Republican establishment of elected officials and longtime activists was well represented in the morning crowd, which was markedly pro-Romney.

Still, many were anxious about how the Michigan native will fare in Tuesday’s primary. Santorum has shown surprising strength in Michigan, they said.

Some said they worried about the potential for mischief by Democrats, who may skip their party’s uncontested ballot and muck about in the Republican primary.

In fact, two Democratic organizations in Detroit are encouraging Democrats to do just that and vote for Ron Paul, while the Daily Kos, a liberal blog, has encouraged Obama supporters to vote for Santorum to try to deny Romney victory in his native Michigan.

Most polls have shown Romney doing better against Obama than other Republicans, including Santorum.

Ingham County Commissioner Steve Dougan said at the Lansing event: “This is wonderful, but there was a certain amount of preaching to the choir here.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen” in Tuesday’s election.

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