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Santorum sharpens attacks on Romney to include Bain record

 

Rick Santorum's rhetoric toward Mitt Romney has grown sharper in recent weeks -- to the point where he’s now making an attack on Romney’s record that he once suggested was off-limits.

Case in point: On Tuesday, Santorum blasted Romney’s private-sector record at Bain Capital. “Gov. Romney has a career as an investment banker and someone who's a private equity guy on Wall Street. I'm not too sure that necessarily commends you well to be president of the United States,” Santorum said in an interview on the nationally syndicated show “Kilmeade & Friends.”

“I don't know of one group of people that's more disliked than politicians -- it may be the folks who gave us the Wall Street bailout. And that's where Mitt Romney comes from.”

But contrast that attack with Santorum’s Jan. 11 defense of Romney after then-candidate Rick Perry compared Romney’s private-equity work at Bain to “vultures”:

You have capitalism, where you have companies that are takeover opportunities because the management hasn't done a good job of managing the company.

Bain Capital, at least from the record I looked at, had a lot of success. I mean they weren't a company that has a long track of record basically destroying the companies and selling off the pieces. They had some situations where they had failures, but every company does.

I hate to sit here and be a defender of Mitt Romney, but to me this is federal capitalism, and I have to say that this is an attack that is probably not warranted.

There is plenty in Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts to attack and go after. ... I don't think going after capitalism and companies, that in many cases, do a public in saving companies is the way to go about doing that.

Yet two months later, as Romney looks to shut the door on his Republican challengers, Santorum identified Romney’s private sector background as a key element of his weakness versus President Obama.

“We'll have a Wall Street banker going up against the president of the United States -- not the best matchup for us,” Santorum told host Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday morning.

This reversal for Santorum comes weeks after Romney and his allies have bombarded Santorum with negative advertisements; as Santorum has positioned himself as the conservative alternative to Romney; and as Santorum hopes to turn the GOP primary race into a one-on-one battle against the former Massachusetts governor.

What’s more, on Monday evening, Santorum took to conservative talk radio to essentially call Romney a socialist -- an insult Republicans usually save for President Obama, not each other.

"I didn't pass RomneyCare, which is a government takeover of 1/6th of the economy," Santorum told conservative pundit Mark Levin in reference to the health reform law Romney signed as governor, which features many similarities to President Obama's national health reform law. "With Mitt Romney, his solution to a health care problem is to take over 1/6th of the economy. You can't call yourself a conservative. You can call yourself a socialist, but you can't call yourself a conservative."

The attacks seem directed toward addressing Romney's advantage over Santorum in previous primary contests when it comes to economic expertise. Romney took a swipe at Santorum on Tuesday when he said that the former senator's economic record all but disqualified Santorum for a spot as Romney's running mate.

"Well, that would preclude, of course, Rick Santorum," Romney said on Fox News when asked whether he needs to pick an identifiable conservative as his running mate. "Rick Santorum is not a person who is an economic conservative to my right. I give him credit for being conservative, but not a fiscal conservative. His record suggests he does not have the fiscal conservative chops that I have."

To that end, a Bloomberg News poll released Tuesday found that Republicans nationally view Romney as better-suited to handle the economy, and, maybe more importantly, view his career at Bain Capital as an asset.

Sixty-four percent of Republicans or lean-Republican adults said in the Bloomberg poll that Romney’s private equity career makes him better qualified to create jobs; 26 percent disagreed.

And 43 percent of Republicans in the same poll said they view Romney as the candidate best-suited to get the economy going, versus 16 percent of Republicans who said the same for Santorum.