Santorum clarifies remarks on sticking with Obama

WEST MONROE, Louisiana Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:26pm EDT

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum addresses supporters at a Get Out The Vote rally in Mandeville, Louisiana March 21, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardner

Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum addresses supporters at a Get Out The Vote rally in Mandeville, Louisiana March 21, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sean Gardner

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WEST MONROE, Louisiana (Reuters) - Rick Santorum tried on Friday to clarify his remarks that Americans might as well stick with President Barack Obama rather than elect Republican rival Mitt Romney, and accused reporters of swallowing the Romney camp's spin on the White House race.

Santorum, campaigning in Louisiana before Saturday's nominating contest, said he would support whoever won the Republican nomination to face Obama in the November 6 general election, but repeated his argument that Romney was too similar to the president.

"I'll vote for whoever the Republican nominee is," Santorum told reporters after firing some practice shots at a Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Office shooting range.

"Barack Obama is a disaster. But we can't have someone who agrees with him on some of the greatest issues of the day. That's the problem with Governor Romney, he doesn't provide the clear choice we need in order to win this election," he said.

On Thursday, Santorum told a Texas crowd that if Republicans nominated someone who was just a little different from Obama, then "we may as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk."

The comment drew immediate condemnation from Romney, but Santorum said the media had too easily accepted Romney's interpretation of his remarks and had quickly bought Romney's contention that Santorum was too far behind in the race to catch up.

"You guys should do some reporting instead of just reporting what Governor Romney feeds you," he said at a news conference. "Do your job. Go and look at the facts and what these states are actually doing instead of buying the Romney spin machine to convince voters to vote for him because of a phony math problem."

Santorum is waging an uphill battle for the nomination against Romney, who leads in convention delegates by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Romney has 552 delegates to Santorum's 249, according to CNN's delegate count.

Santorum hopes to keep Romney from reaching the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the nominating contests end in June, leaving the choice up for grabs heading into the August convention in Tampa, Florida.

'A CHOICE'

"I feel very confident that folks showing up in Tampa are going to be folks who are conservatives who want a choice, not someone who doesn't provide any contrast from President Obama on the biggest issues of the day," Santorum said.

Santorum has tried to rally conservatives who still harbor doubts about Romney because of moderate stances he took when he was governor of liberal Massachusetts, including backing a healthcare plan that was a precursor of Obama's federal overhaul.

That federal plan had its two-year anniversary on Friday and faces Supreme Court arguments on its constitutionality next week. Santorum is using the burst of national attention to the law to highlight Romney's backing of a similar state plan.

"It's a disastrous bill, it happened to be patterned after another disastrous bill, which is Romneycare," he said.

Romney, who has vowed to work for repeal of the federal law if he is elected, defends the Massachusetts plan as a state solution that was not meant to be a one-size-fits-all federal solution.

Santorum leads Romney by double digits in recent polls in conservative Louisiana, but is running out of opportunities to change the dynamic of the race and convince Republicans he can still win the nomination.

The next showdown after Louisiana will be in Wisconsin on April 3, which is voting that day along with Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Before talking to reporters, Santorum fired 12 rounds at a target at the shooting range. While he was shooting, a woman in the crowd yelled, "Pretend it's Obama."

Santorum, who was 30 yards (meters) away and wearing hearing protectors, said he did not hear the comment.

"That's absurd. I'm not pretending it's anybody. We're shooting pistols. That's a very horrible and terrible remark, and I'm glad I didn't hear it," he said.

The Secret Service said it was investigating the incident.

(Writing by John Whitesides; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Comments (7)
Montana1 wrote:
I swear- if I hear him say the word “Contrast” one more time- I will never read another story with Santorum in it or anything about him!

Sorry Rick- you may be a social contrast- but you are not a fiscal contrast- not even close!!

And after the latest slip up and not letting the Etch-a-Sketch thing go- you’re done. Get out now while you still have a shred of dignity left…

Mar 23, 2012 7:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
spall78 wrote:
Some religious nutjobs speak in tongues. This one speaks in gaffes.

Mar 23, 2012 11:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
LillithGoby wrote:
Santorum “clarifies” in a flip flop but no one in media calls the clarification a flip flop because they have designated Romney as the flip flopper. Does romney whine about this like Santorum would.

Reread the article and pick up Rick’s persona from his own words. people give away who they are every time they open their mouths to a perceptive listener. Even politicians when you know the game they have to play because ethe voters are so easily swayed by mind manipulators on the other side or, sadly, in today’s partisan media.

Just because it is written down does not mean it is true. In this info age we need to get info savvy. In Santurm’s case, follow the lack of money. His only chance is to feed into the bigotry of certain right wing fundamentalists. Real Presdidental, Rick, and if could pull a convention coup, what kind of candidate is he then when he shakes his etch-a-sketch and revamps for the race against obama.

Mar 24, 2012 1:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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