Obama Campaign: Santorum Could Be GOP Nominee

Feb 26, 2012 8:12pm

The Obama campaign’s top adviser admitted today that a general election faceoff between the president and Rick Santorum could be a real possibility.

Robert Gibbs told CNN anchor Candy Crowley this morning that Santorum’s strong blue-collar appeal in some states could edge out Mitt Romney as frontrunner.

“I think because of the way delegates are apportioned, this is going to go on for weeks and weeks, and I think he’s got a legitimate chance to be the Republican nominee,” Gibbs said.

Romney and Santorum are currently neck and neck in battleground-state Michigan, where the primary is Tuesday. Romney grew up in the state as the son of a Detroit auto executive, but the candidate’s lifelong wealth has turned into a target for critics who want to paint him as out of touch.

“[Santorum is] clearly somebody who has a very different economic background than Mitt Romney,” Gibbs said. “He’s not worth $250 million and I assume his wife doesn’t have several Cadillacs.”

For most of this election cycle the Obama campaign’s strategy has been focused on an assumption of Romney clinching the Republican nomination. But with Santorum’s rise in the polls, the campaign has admitted in recent weeks it is now directing a more concerted effort against the former Pennsylvania senator.

Gibbs also addressed another GOP candidate, Newt Gingrich, who criticized President Obama’s recent apology regarding the accidental burning of Korans at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. The former White House press secretary told CNN the president was actively working to defuse tensions over the event.

“I’m not sure many people are looking to Newt Gingrich for foreign policy advice,” Gibbs said. “If there’s a problem on the lunar colony, he’ll be among the first we call.”

On Thursday, Gingrich was the first Republican candidate to denounce the apology, saying it was “an outrage.”

“It is Hamid Karzai who owes the American people an apology, not the other way around,” Gingrich said in a written statement. “This destructive double standard whereby the United States and its democratic allies refuse to hold accountable leaders who tolerate systematic violence and oppression in their borders must come to an end.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Santorum this morning, telling  ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that to apologize “shows weakness,” and lent credibility to the idea that the incident was anything more than a mistake.

Last week American soldiers placed a number of Korans in a fire pit after it was believed prisoners at Bagram airbase had been using them to communicate with each other. But Islam mandates the holy book can only be disposed in accordance with select traditions, flame not being one of them. American officials insist the act was not done as a deliberate affront to Muslims.

The incident has sparked a week of mass unrest across Afghanistan and Pakistan, resulting in dozens of deaths, including four U.S. servicemembers at the hands of their Afghan counterparts.

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