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Politics

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum Fight for the Right

March 26, 2012 - 6:00pm

Theres a fight for the right as the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination -- Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum -- continue to try to woo over conservatives and bash each others conservative credentials.

On Tuesday, after winning the support of some prominent conservatives on Monday -- namely U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union -- the Romney camp took aim at Santorums record. The Romney team insisted that conservatives cannot trust the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania.

Fiscal conservatives are rightly appalled at Rick Santorums record on spending issues, said Ryan Williams, a spokesman for Romney. All too often, he was content to play the same old Washington games by taking one for the team instead of standing on principle. Republicans are looking for a proven leader who can take on Barack Obama and ultimately get our spending, debt, and deficits under control.

But some conservatives continue to back Santorum, who is trailing Romney in the delegate count. Longtime conservative activist and fundraiser Richard Viguerie, now serving as chairman of ConservativeHQ.com, pointed to Santorums big win in the Louisiana primary on Saturday night and insisted that the former senator from Pennsylvania is still in the race.

"In Louisiana, grassroots movement conservative voters rejected the pressure from establishment Republican insiders and big-name Washington operators who want to end the contest for the Republican presidential nomination before the Tampa GOP convention," said Viguerie on Tuesday. "Principled conservatives at the national, state, and local levels, as well as tea party activists, are ignoring the calls by GOP politicians to forget your principles and support the moderate Romney.

Noting that Santorum had the backing of prominent conservative leaders, including columnist Michelle Malkin, former presidential candidate Gary Bauer and evangelical author and leader James Dobson, Viguerie insisted that conservatives would keep Santorum in the race until the Republican convention in Tampa come August.

"Rick Santorum is no stranger to the conservative movement -- he is one of us. He walks with us, eats with us, and prays with us. He has celebrated our victories and mourned our losses for many years, not just when he wants our votes, insisted Viguerie. "Conservative support for Rick is reaching critical mass. The majority of national, state, and local conservative movement leaders, as well as grassroots conservative activists, are coming off the sidelines and uniting behind Rick Santorum and are prepared to support him all the way to Tampa.

Santorum himself looked to hammer Romney for backing a health-care law in Massachusetts during his tenure as governor. Taking to the pages of the U.S. News and World Report, Santorum took aim at both Romney and President Barack Obama on health care.

I'm running for president in part because I believe Obamacare is a dangerous precedent and should be repealed in its entirety, Santorum wrote. Mitt Romney is the author and champion of Romneycare, which possesses many of the same features as Obamacare -- including an individual mandate. For conservatives who believe in America's founding principle of limited government, Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, where he established an early model of Obamacare, is troubling, to say the least.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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