Callous Candidates: Insults Abound In GOP Race

PHOTO: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you're in the market for an insult, the GOP race is ripe with inspiration; this campaign has been one of the most vitriolic in history.

And when it comes to launching an attack, Rick Santorum's rhetoric, in particular, has become white hot. From calling the president a "snob" to saying John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech makes him want to "throw up," Santorum is upping his ferocity almost as fast as he's increasing his poll numbers.

But while Santorum strikes a sharp tone, his rivals have been piling on him in return. From calling him a "fake" to a dubbing him a "bully," Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney are returning fire as the clock winds down to the polls closing in Michigan and Arizona, where primaries are currently underway.

Here's a look at some of the mud that has been slung in this contentious race to the White House.

Santorum v. Obama

VIDEO: The GOP presidential candidate challenges Mitt Romney for the nomination.
'What a Snob'

Rick Santorum does not think everyone should go to college and he said Saturday that President Obama was a "snob" for suggesting otherwise.

President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college," Santorum said in a speech to about 1,000 Tea Party activists. "What a snob!"

The former Pennsylvania senator said there are plenty of people who "work hard every day" but were not "taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them."

Santorum has three degrees, a Bachelor's, an M.B.A and a J.D., which is one more than Obama, who does not have an M.B.A.

"I understand why he wants you to go to college," Santorum said, speaking about the president. "He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his."

Santorum stood by his "snob" comment Sunday on "This Week," but told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that he was not discouraging college education, but pointing out the "real problems" with American universities.

"We have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine," he said.

The White House pushed back against Santorum's "snob" remark" Monday.

"I don't think any parent in America who has a child would think it snobbery to hope for that child the best possible education in the future, and that includes college," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Paul v. Santorum

PHOTO: Ron Paul and Rick Santorum
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidates Texas Rep. Ron Paul, left, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum participate in a Republican presidential debate, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz.
'A Fake'

Ron Paul went up on the Michigan airwaves last week with an ad labeling Rick Santorum a "fake." The 30-second spot hits Santorum for voting to raise the debt ceiling, fund Planned Parenthood and expanding entitlements.

"Rick Santorum a fiscal conservative?" asks the ad's narrator. "Fake."

When CNN debate moderator John King asked Paul at last week's Arizona debate why he chose to label Santorum "fake," Paul chuckled. Then responded, "Because he's a fake."

"I find it really fascinating that, when people are running for office, they're really fiscally conservative. When they're in office, they do something different. And then when they explain themselves, they say, 'Oh, I want to repeal that,'" Paul said.

Santorum hit back, citing his 90 percent conservative rating from the American Conservatives Union. "By the way, Ron, you ranked 145th in the bottom half of Republicans this year in a conservative voting record from that same organization," Santorum shot back.

Paul's rebuttal was that such ratings were a "cop-out."

"You know, that's always a cop-out when you compare yourself to the other members of Congress," he said. "The American people are sick and tired of the members of Congress. They get about a 9 percent rating."

Gingrich v. Santorum

PHOTO: Newt Gingrich
Erik Schelzig/AP Photo
Republican presidential candidate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the legislative office complex in Nashville, Tenn., Monday, Feb. 27, 2012.
'Big Labor Republican'

While Santorum hit the pavement in Michigan on Monday, Newt Gingrich dubbed him a "big labor Republican" while campaigning down South in Tennessee and Georgia, two states that vote on Super Tuesday, and states where unions are not very strong.

"I suspect when you get to Memphis and you say this is a guy who wanted to guarantee that FedEx gave in to the unions, Santorum won't be as popular the following morning," Gingrich said, predicting that Santorum will have a hard time campaigning in the South because he "voted for the unions over FedEx."

Gingrich's "big labor" label is one that Mitt Romney has also tried to attach to Santorum. The Romney campaign sent out a list of pro-union bills Santorum voted for in the Senate, with the headline "Big Labor's Favorite Senator."

But Pennsylvania labor leaders say the former Pennsylvania senator was never a friend of union workers.

"There is no support for Rick Santorum in the labor movement," said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. "That just shows how far right that this race has moved. The fact that Rick Santorum is being considered a moderate is the most absurd thing I've ever heard."

Romney v. Santorum

PHOTO: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidates former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, left, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney participate in a Republican presidential debate, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012, in Mesa, Ariz.
'It Helps to Have a Guy as President Who's Had a Job'

In the last full day of campaigning before Michigan voters go to the polls, Romney aimed to flip the focus from social issues back to the economy on Monday, hitting Santorum for his lack of private sector experience and recent detour from economic policy to social issues.

"Sen. Santorum is a nice guy but he's never had a job in the private sector," Romney said at a Rockford, Michigan event. "He's worked as a lobbyist and worked as an elected official and that's fine. But if the issue of the day is the economy, I think to create jobs it helps to have a guy as president who's had a job, and I have."

Santorum worked as an attorney in Pittsburgh for four years after law school before being elected to the U.S. House.

Romney also taunted Santorum over an Op-Ed the former senator wrote in Sunday's Wall Street Journal.

"I saw this morning that Sen. Santorum wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal. I'm glad to see that," Romney said. "I'm glad he recognizes this is going to be a campaign about the economy."

Gingrich v. Obama

VIDEO: Newt Gingrich Dubs President Obama 'Dangerous'
'Most Dangerous President'

The political fury of Newt Gingrich landed squarely on the president's foreign policy platform last week when the GOP candidate dubbed Obama the "most dangerous president in modern American history."

At a campaign stop in Tulsa, Okla., Gingrich said defeating Obama was "in fact, a duty of national security."

"Because the fact is, he is incapable of defending the United States," the former House Speaker said.

Gingrich noted that in this "dangerous" world, Obama is failing to deal with international threats.

"The president wants to unilaterally weaken the United States, he wants to cut the aide to Israel for its anti-ballistic missile defense, he refuses to take Iran seriously," Gingrich said.

Gingrich has said the United States should take whatever steps are necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but emphasizes that covert operations to assassinate the country's nuclear scientists should come first.

Obama, on the other hand, has implemented stiff sanctions against the country. His administration is strongly urging Israel not to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, as it is threatening to, but maintains that Obama is a strong supporter of Israel.

GOP Senator v. Romney

VIDEO: The former senator now leads Romney by double digits in national polls.
'Too Damaged'

As his home state, Michigan may be a make or break state for Mitt Romney in the primary next week. As one GOP senator told ABC News' Jonathan Karl, "If Romney cannot win Michigan, we need a new candidate."

The senator, who requested anonymity, said Republicans would "get killed" in the general election if their nominee could not even win in the state in which he grew up.

"He'd be too damaged if he can't even win in Michigan, where his family is from, where he grew up," said the prominent GOP senator, who has yet to endorse a candidate.

While there have been few recent polls on the Michigan race, Santorum and Romney seem to be in a dead heat there. The state holds its primary Tuesday.

Santorum v. Obama

VIDEO: Did Rick Santorum go too far in his discussion of the president's beliefs?
'Phony Theology'

Rick Santorum took his criticism of the president to the next level last week when he accused Obama of operating under a "phony theology."

"It's not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your job," Santorum said of the president's agenda at a Tea Party rally in Columbus, Ohio. "It's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. Oh, not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology, but no less a theology."

While Santorum has since insisted that he was not questioning Obama's Christian faith, Obama's deputy press secretary Ben LaBolt said his comments were the "latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, searing pessimism and negativity."

Robert Gibbs v. Santorum

VIDEO: Obama campaign advisor on the GOP field and Obama's 2012 prospects.
'Well Over the Line'

Question his policies, criticize his decisions, but don't mess with President Obama's religion, or you'll have to answer to former Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs. Gibbs blasted Santorum last Sunday for being "well over the line" for saying the president operated under a "phony ideology."

"It's wrong, it's destructive and it makes it virtually impossible to solve the problems we face together as Americans," Gibbs said on ABC's "This Week." "It's just time to get rid of this mindset in our politics that if we disagree we have to question character and faith."

Gibbs said the GOP primary has been a "race to the bottom" with candidates opting for character attacks rather than sticking to policy decisions.

Santorum v. Romney

VIDEO: GOP candidate claims he saved the Games, but critics say otherwise.
'Does the Word Hypocrisy Come to Mind?'

At a time in U.S. politics when "bailout" is a practically a curse word and "earmark" is nearly a bleep-able offense, Santorum charged Romney with having "heroically bailed out" the Salt Lake City Olympics by securing an "earmark" from Congress.

"He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake games — in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic games," Santorum said, while campaigning in Ohio.

Romney often touts his tenure at the helm of the 2002 Winter Olympics as an example of his experience. Romney claims to have saved the games after a bribery scandal, but has come under fire for requesting federal money to prop up the troubled Olympics.

Romney's Olympic "bailout," as Santorum calls it, is not the only insult the former Pennsylvania senator was slinging last weekend.

"Now Governor Romney is suggesting, 'Oh, Rick Santorum earmarked,' as he requested almost half a billion dollars in earmarks as governor of Massachusetts to his federal congressmen and senators," Santorum said. "Does the word hypocrisy come to mind?"

Romney v. Santorum

VIDEO: Romney: 'You Can't Vote For Rick Santorum'
'You Can't Vote for Him'

Romney left the sugar-coating at home during a campaign speech in Boise, Idaho last week. The former Massachusetts governor told the crowd straight up that they "can't vote for Rick Santorum."

"If you want a fiscal conservative you can't vote for Rick Santorum because he's not, he's not a deficit hawk, he says he's not a deficit hawk," Romney said. "I am. I'm a fiscal conservative. I'll balance the budget."

Romney rarely mentions Santorum by name on the campaign trail, but after Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWire switched his support from the Romney camp to the Santorum team, Romney was riled up and on the attack.

"Senator Santorum is getting his moment in the spotlight now, which is a good thing," Romney said.

"I hope people take a very close look at his record, because he was in Congress for about 20 years and during that time the size of the federal government doubled during his time in office."

"And by the way," Romney added, "he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts. And he's a big proponent of earmarks. He voted for billions of dollars of earmarks including the bridge to nowhere."

Pet Lovers v. Romney

VIDEO: ABC's Diane Sawyer, Jake Tapper and Jon Karl discuss this week in politics.
'Mean to Dogs'

It might sound like a trite pull on the emotional heart strings, but the accusation that Romney is "mean to dogs" is a charge that is proving to be immortal.

The story of how Romney strapped his family dog Seamus' kennel to the roof of his station wagon -- with the dog inside -- during a 12-hour drive, has come back to haunt the presidential candidate more than 20 years after the fact.

The tale has now spawned the anti-Romney group "Dogs Against Romney," which protested outside the Westminster dog show in New York City last week "to ensure pet lovers are aware that Mitt Romney is mean to dogs."

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