Rick Santorum Takes Selective Swipes At Mitt Romney As Michigan Primary Looms

Feb 24, 2012 10:35pm

ABC News’ Michael Falcone and  Russell Goldman report:

LINCOLN PARK, Mich. — In a 55-minute speech in this blue-collar Detroit suburb, Rick Santorum mostly steered clear of the harsh anti-Mitt Romney talking points his campaign was circulating earlier on Friday.

Instead, Santorum methodically worked his way through a 10-point plan for restoring the country to fiscal health, including the reforms he plans to enact in the areas of housing, energy and taxation in his first 100 days in office.

Santorum mentioned Romney by name only a handful of times.

He criticized his rival’s tax plan, which would limit deductions for charitable giving from those in the top tax bracket. The former Pennsylvania senator called it an example of “torpedoing the very civic institutions that make America work.”

Earlier on Friday, the Santorum campaign circulated what amounted to a tirade against Romney, which aides said, their candidate would be using to contrast himself with his opponent between now and the Feb. 28 primary in Michigan.

But few of those lines made their way into Santorum’s speech, which he delivered to a crowd of roughly 200 people, including about a dozen nuns, at a local Knights of Columbus hall.

Without naming names, Santorum lambasted his rivals for throwing “mud and dirt” on the campaign trail.

“This campaign, as we’ve seen, can get off the ideas, off the vision,” Santorum said, promising to finish his own campaign “on a high note.”

Santorum, who is locked in a close race with Romney in this state with just three full days of campaigning left before voters head to the polls, focused his sharpest barbs at President Obama.

He accused the president of intentionally driving up the cost of gasoline in order to serve the administration’s anti-global warming agenda. “I don’t know how stupid he thinks America is,” Santorum said.

He also assailed President Obama for neglecting the country’s manufacturing industry, which Santorum pledged to help revive by eliminating the corporate tax on manufacturing companies.

“Guess what’s happening to small town America?” Santorum said. “It’s still dying on the vine.”

He cast himself as a fiscal hawk whose experience in government was a plus not a minus, as Romney has said.

“I proposed a balanced budget before it was really cool to balance a budget,” Santorum noted, touting his proposal to reduce government spending by $5 trillion over five years.

“No one else has come close to that number,” Santorum said, “not even Ron Paul.”

As he has before, Santorum offered up an I-feel-your-pain line to his audience: “The housing value of my house is a fraction of when we bought it,” he told the crowd.

He called his plan “inclusive” and said that “Americans are looking for someone who can paint a vision, who can draw a contrast.”

Before he wrapped up, Santorum took an opportunity to hammer Romney on the issue of government bailouts. His campaign is running an ad in Michigan attacking the former Massachusetts governor for opposing the bailout of the automobile industry, a position that Santorum, himself, also took.

“I don’t know what principles you can say you’re consistent, if you say I’m going to bail out one group of folks and not bail out another industry,” Santorum said, referring to Romney’s support of the Wall Street bailout. “My feeling was, you’re either for them or you’re against them, but don’t you start picking winners and losers and that’s what Governor Romney and others in this campaign have done, and I haven’t. ”

“You may not like my position on bailouts, but I’ve been consistent and principled,” Santorum said, “unlike other people in this race.”

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