Rick Santorum Goes After Mitt Romney on Health Care: ‘He Should Not Be the Nominee’

Feb 6, 2012 5:44pm

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Just steps away from the famed Mayo Clinic, Rick Santorum ripped into the Republican presidential front-runner on heath care, saying the plan that Mitt Romney signed into law while the governor of Massachusetts should disqualify him from being the party’s standard bearer to take on President Obama.

“Gov. Romney is dead wrong on the issue of the day and he should not be the nominee of the party,” Santorum said in a hotel ballroom across the street from the hospital, adding the issue of health care is “central to our country, central to this race specifically why Gov. Romney is absolutely incapable of making the case against Obamacare successfully.”

He listed reasons why Romney’s legislation and the administration’s national health care plan, a standard target on the GOP campaign trail, are the same, even saying Obama “copied” Romney’s plan.

“The problem is, we have a candidate who is running and seen by the media as the prohibitive favorite, who is the worst possible person in the field to put up on this most fundamental issue in this campaign, and that is Gov. Romney,” Santorum said. “The plan he put together in Massachusetts is in fact ‘ObamaCare’ on the state level.”

Santorum continued working his way down a list in ways the plans are similar starting with an individual mandate.

“Both ‘ObamaCare’ and ‘RomneyCare’ require an individual mandate where the government tells each person they must purchase insurance on the condition of breathing,” Santorum said. “Massachusetts, under Gov. Romney, was the first individual mandate … he set forth a path that has now led to ‘ObamaCare.’”

While discussing health care it was clear that the former Pennsylvania senator is suffering from a cold himself, apologizing at the beginning of the speech that he would have to clear his throat and joked he “has his own health care issues.”

He said he caught it from his youngest daughter, Bella who suffers from the rare and serious genetic condition Trisomy 18 and was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago with a grave bout with double pneumonia. She was released this week and Santorum thanked the audience for their prayers.

Santorum said the two plans have similar levels, using terms like “gold, silver, and bronze,” and in possibly his most aggressive attack he said they both use “government panels to dictate quality and cost containment,” and for the second day in a row brought up the controversial term “death panels.”

The candidate told the crowd the vulnerable could be at risk under the administration’s plan and are at risk under Romney’s plan because the government could “ultimately decide to ration care.”

After his address he told reporters he didn’t mean to scare anyone by warning that care to the sick or elderly could come to an end, instead that he’s “just telling people exactly what the situation is.”

Minnesota’s caucuses are Tuesday, along with contests in Colorado and Missouri, and in the hopes of gaining some ground after not scoring a win since the first contest in Iowa, Santorum is targeting Romney. Missouri does not award any delegates until the state’s caucuses in March, but because Newt Gingrich is not on the ballot there the Santorum team hopes to score a win in a head-to-head match-up with Romney that could re-set the momentum of the race.

He told Minnesotans today that the race is not over, despite Romney’s victories in New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada. He even recreated a Gingrich dig, calling the former Massachusetts governor “Obama light.”

“You here in Minnesota tomorrow will have a huge impact,” Santorum said. “The press likes to write the story that there is an inevitability to ‘Obama light on health care’ being the Republican nominee. That would be a devastating thing for the chances of us — who would like to see President Obama defeated in the next election.”

He also praised health savings accounts, legislation he worked on in Congress, as a better option than either Romney’s state plan or the administration’s federal plan.

“The reason I got involved in the Republican primary for president was because of the issue of health care. It’s an issue I’ve been working on for the better part of 20 years,” Santorum said.

Romney has defended his health care plan as one that is right for the state of Massachusetts, but has said he is against a federal plan that is “one size fits all.”

Just before Santorum was set to speak at the Kahler Hotel, the Romney camp blasted out an e mail that said Santorum’s past statements on Romney’s plan are “false,” including the former Pennsylvania senator’s claims that Romney’s plan is “government run.”

The campaign also had a conference call with former Minnesota governor and Romney surrogate Tim Pawlenty, who also attacked Santorum on the issue of earmarks. Pawlenty said Santorum is not as conservative as he claims to be and called him a “champion of earmarks.”

Santorum said the attacks are “typical Romney.”

“Here’s a situation where someone is now doing well, rising in the polls and instead of Gov. Romney going out and talking about his plans and what he’s going to do, he goes out and throws the kitchen sink and runs negative ads and sends out his surrogates to rip and tear — even though he’s as vulnerable on this issue [earmarks] as anybody,” Santorum said.

He said some of Romney’s surrogates have used earmarks in the past, but did not specifically mention Pawlenty.

“This is the narrative which you’re going to see. Anytime someone challenges Gov. Romney, Gov. Romney goes out and instead of talking about what he’s for … he just simply goes out and attacks and tries to destroy,” Santorum told reporters after his speech. “I don’t think it’s going to work this time.”

When asked how it felt to finally be in the frontrunners crosshairs, Santorum replied, “I love it.”

Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley responded to Pawlenty’s call saying in a statement that “the only accomplishment that Gov. Romney points to and actually defends during his tenure as Governor — is the most liberal, the most expensive and the most intrusive.”

“In fact, the only area conservatives would appreciate Romney flip-flopping on would be ‘RomneyCare.’ So why he doubles down on this liberal accomplishment instead of just flip-flopping as usual is beyond me. We’re all looking for Gov. Romney to finally have firm conviction on something, but it’s pretty telling that he picks ‘RomneyCare,’” Gidley said.

The Romney campaign hit back with its own statement saying Santorum has  ”a history in this campaign of making false statements about Mitt Romney’s record – this is just one more example.”

Romney Campaign Spokesman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement, “Mitt Romney will repeal Obamacare.  Rick Santorum is hoping to get some momentum behind his campaign, but has unfortunately resorted to false and negative attacks.”

Dr. Maria Poirier, who works at the Mayo Clinic and supports Santorum, said she came to listen to the speech because she believes Santorum is the only candidate who “understands free market principles in reforming health care.”

“I think it’s just very important that we have health reform done right in this country and I think Sen. Santorum is the only candidate talking about the urgent need for reform,” Poirier said.

Earlier in the day, Santorum toured a local veterans’ memorial in Rochester. Braving the Minnesota cold and wearing a white Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial baseball hat, he walked around the massive marble structure shaking hands with veterans. He next heads to Colorado for two events in the Denver area.

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