The Ticket

Heading into Minnesota, Romney focuses attacks on Santorum

Chris Moody
The Ticket

View photo

.

Mitt Romney reaches out to Rick Santorum during a Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla. (Paul Sancya/A …

Mitt Romney isn't letting up on Newt Gingrich this week, but in the days before the Minnesota Republican caucuses, his campaign has been taking aim at Rick Santorum as well.

The Romney campaign sent reporters an in-depth, 1,537-word "Research Briefing" focused on Santorum on Sunday, knocking Santorum for supporting earmarks during his tenure in Congress and pointing to some of the more famous earmarks he voted for, like the Alaskan "Bridge to Nowhere." And on Monday, Romney put campaign surrogate and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty on a conference call with reporters to counter Santorum's claims to being the most conservative candidate in the primary race.

"He clearly has been part of the big spending establishment in Congress and in the influence peddling industry that surrounds Congress," Pawlenty said of Santorum."To hold himself out now as somebody who is unquestionably conservative on these matters is just not supported by the facts. We wanted to call that out."

Santorum did in fact support earmarks, and has defended his decision on the campaign trail. "Absolutely I had earmarks while I was in the United States Senate. Look at the Constitution. Who has the responsibility to spend money?" Santorum said while campaigning in Iowa in December. "Please go take a look at my earmarks. Are there things in there I'm proud of? You bet there are."

Asked about Romney's decision to focus on Santorum, a spokesman for the former Pennsylvania senator's presidential campaign called the tactics "tired" and blasted Romney's record as "abysmal."

"If Governor Romney is confident running on his record and his vision for the future, he would," Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley told Yahoo News."But Gov. Romney does what he always does and directs his well-funded attack machine to destroy the opponent. Mitt Romney's act is tired, old and wearing thin with voters and I suspect at this point, with the media too. Romney never touts his own record — because it's abysmal."

Santorum, who bested Romney in the Iowa caucuses but failed to gain traction in the following electoral contests, could pose a threat to Romney in Minnesota on Tuesday. A Public Policy Polling survey puts Santorum two percentage points ahead of Romney in the state, a statistical tie. That probably explains the fresh offensive from the Romney campaign, which has not focused much energy on Santorum until this point.

"He's a credible candidate," Pawlenty conceded on the call, "and deserves to be right in the back and forth between the campaigns and I think that's what you see happening."

"It will be very competitive," he added.

Other popular Yahoo! News stories:

Romney wins Nevada, Gingrich vows to stay in race

Tim Tebow: Politics could be 'something in my future'

What to watch for Monday in politics

Want more of our best political stories? Visit on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or add us on Tumblr.

Handy with a camera? Join our Election 2012 Flickr group to submit your photos of the campaign in action.

View Comments (2288)