- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2012

Rick Santorum went after Mitt Romney, and Mitt Romney went after President Obama in separate interviews Monday on the eve of critical Republican presidential primaries in Michigan and Arizona.

Mr. Santorum, making a strong push against Mr. Romney in the latter’s home state of Michigan, defended some of his votes when he was a senator from Pennsylvania as a matter of party loyalty and fidelity to conservative values, denouncing Mr. Romney as the “most liberal” candidate in the GOP race.

Mr. Romney, in a separate interview with The Washington Times-affiliated “America’s Morning News,” said the sometimes nasty tone of the GOP presidential fight reflected deep voter concern about the state of the country under Mr. Obama’s leadership.

“The American people are anxious to see change, particularly those on my side of the aisle who recognize how badly this president has failed. The question I get asked most often is, ‘Why won’t you take off the gloves against President Obama?’ ” the former Massachusetts governor told the “America’s Morning News” program.

“I know that we all want things to be positive, but this president brings forth a great deal of energy by people who are very, very concerned, who recognize that he’s taking us in a wrong direction, that America is on a decline.”

Mr. Santorum pushed back Monday against Mr. Romney’s constant needling of the former Pennsylvania senator’s “take one for the team” comment during last week’s Republican presidential debate in Arizona.

Mr. Santorum acknowledged during the debate that a number of votes he cast in Congress reflected his loyalty to the party rather than his personal preferences. Mr. Romney repeatedly has criticized Mr. Santorum’s defense as a failure of leadership.

“I’ll tell you what team I was on. I was on George Bush and the Republican conservatives’ team, and I have a voting record that backs it up - a 90 percent conservative voting record,” Mr. Santorum said Monday.

“The audacity of Gov. Romney, one of the most liberal guys to run for the Republican nomination, the most liberal guy to run for the Republican nomination in this race … that’s why he’s not doing well here in Michigan; there’s no credibility, there’s no authenticity. He is whatever he needs to be to win,” Mr. Santorum told hosts John McCaslin and Dana Mills.

The former senator, who already has won GOP contests in Iowa, Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota, said he was just glad to be in contention in Michigan, a state where Mr. Romney was born and where his father served as governor.

Mr. Romney “grew up here, his family is deeply entrenched in this state, and he won this state going away four years ago. … The fact that we are neck-and-neck in this race is a real testament to the message of growth.”

Mr. Romney, who appears to have erased Mr. Santorum’s lead in Michigan in recent days, said the deep unhappiness among GOP voters required the candidates to take a pointed tone against Mr. Obama.

“They want to see somebody who can battle hard and get back the White House,” he said.

The president, Mr. Romney added, is “a nice guy, but he just has no clue what it takes to get the economy going.”

He took another jab at Mr. Santorum, again targeting his admission about “taking one for the team.”

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