Santorum blasts Romney on healthcare ahead of Ohio vote

BLUE ASH, Ohio Mon Mar 5, 2012 2:55pm EST

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign rally at Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, March 1, 2012.  REUTERS/Tami Chappell

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign rally at Peachtree-Dekalb Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, March 1, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Tami Chappell

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BLUE ASH, Ohio (Reuters) - Republican Rick Santorum lashed out at chief rival Mitt Romney on Saturday as "uniquely unqualified" to challenge President Barack Obama in November's election and urged Ohio voters to join him in rejecting the party's old-boy establishment.

On a busy day of campaigning ahead of Ohio's vital Republican primary on Tuesday, Santorum portrayed himself as a blue-collar underdog who would remain true to his conservative principles in battling heavy-handed government power.

He said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, had forfeited his ability to fight Obama's federal healthcare overhaul by backing a similar plan in Massachusetts that included an individual mandate to purchase insurance.

"He is uniquely unqualified to go against Barack Obama on the biggest issue in this election," Santorum told a crowd of about 400 in a hotel ballroom in Blue Ash, a Cincinnati suburb in heavily Republican southwest Ohio.

Santorum is battling to hold a narrow lead in polls over Romney in Ohio, the biggest prize of the 10 states holding "Super Tuesday" nominating contests. Romney, a wealthy former head of a private equity firm, has a big financial and organizational edge on his Republican rivals.

"This race is going to be close in Ohio, we are going to be outspent, but we've been outspent in every race so far," Santorum said.

In response to the criticism, Romney's campaign issued a statement noting he had never supported an individual mandate on the federal level and believed states should be free to develop their own healthcare reforms.

At a Republican dinner in Lima, Ohio, on Saturday night, Santorum acknowledged Romney had only backed a state-level healthcare mandate but said he was not impressed by the distinction.

"I know that's a difference, but it's hardly a rallying cry for the nation," Santorum said.

Romney gained momentum heading into Tuesday after a double-win over Santorum in Michigan and Arizona this week, but a Santorum victory in Ohio would turn the frequently shifting Republican race upside down again and ensure a long, drawn-out battle for the nomination.

'NOT READY'

Romney's campaign criticized Santorum's failure to file full delegate slates in several Ohio districts, which makes him ineligible to win up to a quarter of the state's 66 delegates to the nominating convention in August.

Santorum also failed to qualify for the ballot in Virginia, another Super Tuesday state.

The slip-ups were evidence Santorum's campaign "is simply not prepared to take on a Democrat machine that will raise and spend $1 billion," Rich Beeson, Romney's political director, said in a memo to reporters.

Santorum told the Ohio crowd he was fighting Romney's "old-boy network, the insiders." He described himself as a "first-generation Italian American from a steel town in western Pennsylvania. We haven't had too many of those in the White House, it's about time we get one."

Santorum, a staunch social conservative, said Obama and his fellow Democrats had encouraged an overactive government that undercut communities, families and churches by imposing its own values and views.

"You go into the neighborhoods in Cincinnati where there are no dads and where the churches have bailed out, where the community organizations don't exist. What do you find? Government everywhere," Santorum said.

"Do you find freedom? Do the people who live in those communities feel safe going out at night?" he asked.

Santorum conducted three public campaign events in southern and western Ohio on Saturday. On Sunday he will visit Tennessee and Oklahoma, which also have primaries on Tuesday, before returning to Ohio for the run-up to Tuesday's voting.

Santorum's campaign has been dominated in the last few weeks by his comments on politicized social issues like abortion and birth control, but he has focused in Ohio on familiarizing voters with his biography and laying out his plans to resurrect the struggling economy.

He said in Blue Ash that his plan to eliminate the corporate tax on manufacturing firms would help turn ailing Rust Belt economies into the "stainless steel belt."

For a video of Santorum's speech, click here

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (3)
wrpa wrote:
You see, Frothy Rick has made millions since he was voted one of the most corrupt people in Congress, so he doesn’t need health care like you and I need it. One man’s “socialism” is another man’s lifeline!!

Mar 05, 2012 2:03pm EST  --  Report as abuse
neahkahnie wrote:
Notice all the Congressional Republicans, past and present (Senate and House) who have supported Rick (remember he was in both Houses. Answer -1- Mike Dewine who had first endorsed Romney. That should tell you something about Santorum’s colleagues. How many have endorsed Gingrich?
-0-

Mar 05, 2012 9:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
CathyAC wrote:
Ok having taken a second to move past that first flash of incredulity and anger…I am unsure how ANYONE can possibly think that ANY of these men has as much grasp of economics and how people are struggling to live as your average teenager does. Cutting Department after Department, Safety Net after safety net..isn’t going to balance our budget. What it will do is precipitate one of the Greatest Depressions and (I hate to say it) Crime Sprees as people become desperate for the money to keep their homes and families fed. States don’t have the money to help them either. Furthermore cutting Corporate taxes ISN’t going to do a blasted thing to raise employment or get factories open again. Not when China is paying factory workers $120 a MONTH US, to produce the US Companies goods like they are for Apple. I don’t know too many who can raise a family on $120 in the US, especially if they manage to remove all contraception adn abortion laws that would aid in keeping the population under control.

This batch of hopefuls needs to step away from their wallets and learn to l9ive on OURS for a year or so before they think they are qualified to know what we need and don’t need.

Mar 06, 2012 8:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
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