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Santorum knocks Romney for flubbing answer about Blunt amendment

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
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Santorum addresses supporters in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday. (John Amis/AP)

ATLANTA -- Rick Santorum criticized Mitt Romney Thursday for flubbing an answer to a question about a bill in Congress that would grant a conscience exemption to President Barack Obama's federal health care law.

Romney was asked about an amendment proposed by Roy Blunt, a Republican senator from Missouri, that would allow employers who offer health care plans to apply for an exemption to federal mandates--such as contraception coverage--if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. The bill failed in the chamber in a procedural vote on Thursday morning. Initially, Romney said he opposed the amendment, but he later issued a statement that he misunderstood the question and that he supported it.

Santorum seized on Romney's apparent reversal and suggested that he changed his mind only when his "consultants" advised him to for political reasons.

"We saw an insight into what's in the gut of Governor Romney yesterday," Santorum told supporters at a campaign rally in Atlanta before departing for a flight to Spokane, Wash. "When Gov. Romney was asked that question, his knee-jerk reaction was, No, I can't be for that. Well then after his consultants talked to him, then he came back and said, No, I didn't understand the question. Well maybe he did, maybe he didn't. But I'll tell ya, if I was asked a question like that, my gut reaction would be always--My gut reaction would be, you stand for the First Amendment. You stand for freedom of religion."

"A lot will tell you what kind of president you're going to be when you haven't been properly briefed by your consultants," he went on to say.

In the Senate vote on the amendment, one Republican opposed the provision and  three Democrats supported it, including Bob Casey, the Pennsylvania Democrat who defeated Santorum in a race for the seat in 2006.

Santorum also suggested that if Republicans choose Romney as their nominee, he will lose to Obama in November.

"We need the people of Georgia to stand with the conservative to make sure the Washington establishment doesn't again give us another moderate Republican who will not motivate our country and will lose this election in the general election," he said. "We've seen the pattern when the Republican establishment gets their way and puts forth a moderate, whether it's McCain, whether it's Dole, whether it's the re-election of George H.W. Bush. Whether it was Jerry Ford. Every time they get their way and nominate the candidate they say that can win because they're a moderate, guess what happens: You'd think we'd learn our lessons."

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