Santorum coming under closer scrutiny in New Hampshire

MANCHESTER/NORTHFIELD, New Hampshire Thu Jan 5, 2012 5:21pm EST

1 of 17. Republican presidential candidate and former Senator Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at Merrimack Valley Railroad in Northfield, New Hampshire January 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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MANCHESTER/NORTHFIELD, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Republican presidential upstart Rick Santorum found himself under increasing scrutiny on Thursday as front-runner Mitt Romney tried to chip away at his credibility ahead of the key New Hampshire primary.

Santorum's surge in Iowa, which held its nominating contest on Tuesday, was so quick that his record as a U.S. senator and strong conservative views against abortion and gay marriage escaped close attention from his 2012 presidential rivals and the media.

A Suffolk University tracking poll showed Romney on cruise control in New Hampshire ahead of its primary next Tuesday but that Santorum had risen to a distant third. It gave Romney 41 percent support, Ron Paul 18 percent and Santorum 8 percent.

After finishing a close second to Romney in Iowa and bursting into the limelight, Santorum is under the microscope, drawing fire from Senator John McCain, a Romney supporter who clashed often with Santorum over government spending when they were Senate colleagues.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, is a sharp critic of spending items called earmarks that typically escape the scrutiny that accompanies U.S. budget legislation, to the dismay of conservatives.

"He was an avid earmarker and a staunch defender of porkbarrel spending," McCain told Reuters. "I just don't think he can portray himself as a fiscal conservative. We all know that earmarking is a 'gateway drug' to corruption."

Santorum's efforts to obtain taxpayer funds for spending projects for his home state of Pennsylvania have long been an issue. McCain specifically cited the $500,000 that Santorum engineered for a polar bear exhibit at the Pittsburgh zoo as an example of wasteful spending.

"The polar bears are living well," McCain said wryly. "That's the good news."

Santorum has fought back against accusations of profligate spending, saying he wanted to make sure his taxpayers got their "fair share" of money back. He says he will fight for deep spending cuts if elected next November.

Santorum is hoping to recreate his Iowa magic in New Hampshire, which holds the second contest to determine a Republican challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama.

He wants to finish strong enough to generate momentum going into South Carolina, where a conservative like him has a better chance.

"Obviously Mitt Romney is at 40 percent in the polls, the chances in five days to make up a 35 or 40 point lead is going to be pretty limited but we expect to make a run and to move up in those polls," Santorum told reporters in Manchester.

Romney's big lead gives him great expectations in New Hampshire, perhaps more than he can reasonably expect to fulfill in a state that is unpredictable and can provide crucial momentum to the second-place finisher.

McCain said he believed the race will tighten in New Hampshire and doubted Romney will end up with 40 percent support or more.

"It's important for the Romney campaign and all of us who are supporting him not to raise expectations," said McCain, who surprised George W. Bush here in 2000. "So much of this is the expectations game. I think he'll win New Hampshire well but I can't imagine any candidate winning with 43 percent of the vote."

Keeping Obama in their sights, the Republicans blasted Obama for bypassing Congress to fill politically sensitive posts.

Obama upset Republicans by making four recess appointments - naming Richard Cordray to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Board and filling three vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board.

Ron Paul called Obama's move a clear disregard of the U.S. Constitution.

"The president must be called to account for his actions," Paul said in a statement, adding that Congress may need to take action to rein in Obama's "flagrant contempt" for the rules.

MOMENTUM FOR SOUTH CAROLINA

The top finishers in New Hampshire will carry important momentum toward what will be a showdown on January 21 in South Carolina, where a conservative has a better chance.

So far, Romney has not gone after Santorum with the same intensity as he did against former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who led the polls in Iowa before being attacked in millions of dollars of negative attack ads.

That experience has left Gingrich an angry revenge-seeker. He is campaigning in New Hampshire accusing Romney of being a "timid Massachusetts moderate" who lacks conservative principles.

Gingrich is hoping to finish high enough in New Hampshire to give him momentum going into South Carolina, which this year may hold the key to the Republican presidential nomination. A second objective is to prevent Romney from having a blow-out victory.

"I don't believe that a Massachusetts moderate is in a very good position to debate Barack Obama," Gingrich said.

(Additional reporting by Ros Krasny and Scott Malone; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (13)
lnardozi wrote:
Santorum was apparently taking bribes from Accuweather to introduce legislation that prevents the NWS from giving out free weather reports – now that information is given to AccuWeather to sell to us. But it gets better – he sold us out for a lousy $2000.
Hm. He also sold us out on a $10 billion bailout of tobacco farmers – for $9,000. Nice work if you’re a tobacco farmer I guess.
He took $6,000 to reduce the federal tax on a keg of beer by 1/2. Nice work if you can get it.

http://www.citizensforethics.org/page/-/PDFs/Reports/CREW_Beyond_Delay_Report_20060920.pdf?nocdn=1

Then there’s Romney. His SuperPac changed reporting requirements so it can hide who the money came from until after the Florida primary.
His Democrat opponent for governor had a better NRA rating than he did. Of course there’s Romneycare, the model for Obamacare. Plus, he was excused military service because he had to go convert more Mormons. Good enough reason not to serve, huh?

Then there’s Paul. Unimpeachable integrity. Military service. 12 Term Congressman that NEVER ONCE voted to increase taxes. Responsible for bringing the problems with the FED to the attention of the 75% of people who now want an audit. Delivered over 4000 babies, many of which to poor families – but did not accept Medicare or any other government payments. 30 years of consistency and 30 years fighting for YOUR individual liberty.
Despised by the media for speaking the truth about the bailouts, the FED and the erosion of civil liberties. Will end the wars – the ONLY candidate to unequivocally state so. Only candidate to predict the housing bust. Only candidate able to explain why we our economy is so bad and how to fix it. ONLY candidate with a plan to ACTUALLY cut spending, instead of just proposed increases. I could go on for pages, but you get the point. Will you vote in your own self interest?

Jan 04, 2012 8:36pm EST  --  Report as abuse
castyourvote wrote:
The caucuses are in, and the polls say…Some are wrong, a few are right. I am so tired of hearing about nothing but polls as they, in my opinion, don’t seem to reflect what the average American truly feels. If only there was one that could truly capture our interest. I found the 2012 EBAY Poll United States Presidential Election – can we really make a difference? I say YES! Please cast your vote now for your candidate in what appears to be an intriguing nonscientific, nonpartisan poll on EBAY.

Jan 04, 2012 8:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
MatthewMCA wrote:
@ Inardozi – Agreed. Not to mention unparalled support by those who serve in our Armed Forces.

Once again, major media IGNORES Ron Paul, though he did far better in Iowa than Gingrich or Bachmann or Perry. He clearly has the credentials and a large following, and is a force to be reckoned with. WHEN, not if, Santorum’s campaign falters, the two top contenders will be Romney and Paul.

If the RNC ignores so many people who clearly and loudly support Paul, the Republican Party will be split, giving Obama an easy win next November. His strong following might or might not not win the election, but it could easily lose it, which means he’s a MAJOR player in this election.

All that, and EIGHT, count them, EIGHT writers, contributors and editors on this article and NOT ONE thought to mention Paul?

This is not forgetfulness. This is clearly bias. Enforced media silence. Media living by “if you dont have anything bad to say about Paul, don’t say anything at all”.

Shaping public option through media by putting out skewed and biased reporting is quickly dying. The editors over at Reuters had better get their heads on straight and realize this if they wish to be relevant at all in two years.

Jan 04, 2012 9:49pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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