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Santorum stresses his roots versus Romney's wealth

 

PUNTA GORDA, FL -- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum stressed his humble roots and blue-collar background on the campaign trail Tuesday, the same day GOP primary rival Mitt Romney released tax records underscoring his impressive wealth.

Santorum was careful not to seize on Romney's millions, explaining that he does not begrudge the former Massachusetts governor's wealth.

"People ask me, 'What do you think about Mitt Romney, you know, making a gazillion dollars last year?' Good for him, that's what I say, good for him," Santorum told a tea party group here. "I wish I'd a made some gazillion dollars last year. I'd be in a little better shape financing my own campaign like he's done."

After heavy criticism for initially resisting releasing the documents, Romney today made public his tax records, showing the presidential hopeful earned a total of $42.5 million in 2010 and 2011.  Romney has acknowledged that his previous hesitancy to share the records became a distraction in the days leading up the South Carolina primary, in which Romney finished a distant second to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Unlike some of his GOP rivals, Santorum has avoided critiquing Romney's private sector experience as CEO of investment firm Bain Capital. But while he has shied away from attacks on Romney's business background, he frequently contrasts their backgrounds while on the campaign trail.

Speaking at a rally in Stuart, FL today, Santorum told the story of his immigrant grandfather who labored in the coalmines of Pennsylvania, working to bring his family to America. The personal account drew national attention after the former Pennsylvania senator shared it the night of the Iowa caucus, and it has since become a staple on the trail.

It is those working class roots that will help Santorum win over blue-collar Americans in swing states, Santorum argues.

"The question is how well people can relate to him. That's a question that the voters will decide," he said when asked about what Romney's financial records say about the candidate.

But on the stump over the past month, Santorum has made a much more passionate contrast between his and Romney’s life story.  In the days leading up the South Carolina primary, Santorum told a crowd in Greenville, SC. "I respect Mitt Romney’s career in business, but as the grandson of a coal miner, who grew up in public housing in a steel town in Western Pennsylvania...and whose record is a track record of working in those blue collar communities, [I have] a much better chance of winning those states than an executive from Bain Capital."

Santorum still have yet to release his own tax records, saying he will when he is able to return home to look at them.

Santorum said, "Once I get home, we'll get them out. I’m not everybody else who has teams of accountants and corporations, I mean, it's just me."