Rick Santorum Says Jon Huntsman’s Backing of Former Foe Mitt Romney Would Just Be ‘Moderates Backing Moderates’

Jan 16, 2012 10:44am
gty huntsman romney tk 120110 wblog Rick Santorum Says Jon Huntsmans Backing of Former Foe Mitt Romney Would Just Be Moderates Backing Moderates

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Standing around breakfast patrons at an early-morning campaign stop here, Rick Santorum said today he had expected opponent Jon Huntsman to exit the race for the GOP nomination and back front-runner Mitt Romney.

Santorum, asked about the scheduled announcement from Huntsman, said any partnership between the formerly fierce rivals is just “moderates backing moderates, that’s the bottom line.”

“It’s no surprise. Gov. Huntsman ran as a moderate trying to compete with Gov. Romney for the establishment moderate vote,” Santorum told reporters. “Gov. Romney had a leg up on him as being a solid moderate that the establishment could get behind and Gov. Huntsman wasn’t able to crack through that. I’m not surprised at that at all and I anticipated that actually sooner than today.”

At the famous Lizard’s Thicket, a frequent stop for presidential candidate, Santorum was asked if this now means there is more pressure for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to get out of the race. He did not call for his rival to get out, saying two days ago that we would not, but he did say that “it’s important that we eventually consolidate this race.”

“To the extent that can happen through the voting process, look at it this way, we’ve had two contests already. I’ve been the leading conservative in both of those contests. In Iowa, I finished ahead of Gingrich and Perry by double digits and then in New Hampshire I finished ahead of congressman Gingrich,” Santorum said.

He said it’s up to South Carolina voters to decide whether Perry should get out of the race, but said he – not Newt Gingrich – is the most electable, despite what Gingrich says on the trail, adding, “it’s not just about coalescing behind the conservative, it’s coalescing around the conservative that can win.”

“He spent an enormous amount of money in those states, had endorsements of major papers and yet I was able to win in both of those states spending almost no money with no major endorsements from key papers like the Manchester Union Leader,” Santorum said, referring to the paper’s backing Gingrich.  ”So I think if you are looking at who’s the candidate that we can coalesce, that if given the proper resources and the ability to go against Gov. Romney head to head, there are polls in Florida and I think in North Carolina that show in a head-to-head contest, it’s not even close.

“I beat Gov. Romney very clearly and that’s not the case with the other candidates so if you are looking for someone who can take on not only Gov. Romney but can also take on President Obama again in these very key swing states, we run better than anybody against President Obama.”

He added that he believes, despite his virtual tie with Romney in Iowa and the media crush before it and afterward, he still has lower name recognition, meaning he has an “upside potential to go from there and that creates more of an opportunity to be successful.”

Santorum has a packed day today with campaign stops in Myrtle Beach and ends the day with the Fox News debate, also in the famous vacation town.

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