Rick Santorum Calls Mitt Romney Campaign ‘Desperate’ for Questioning Saturday’s Delegate Haul

Mar 11, 2012 12:50pm

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Missouri – Rick Santorum called the Romney campaign “desperate” Saturday evening, responding to the claim that its candidate, not Santorum, earned more delegates today.

While Santorum was the victor in Kansas Saturday by a wide margin, Mitt Romney won the Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Virgin Islands Territorial caucuses. The campaign also claimed to have won the Wyoming caucuses, but ABC News is waiting until the full results of that contest are in next month to declare a winner.

The Romney campaign sent out an email earlier Saturday touting its delegate bounty over Santorum’s.

At a rally Saturday evening at the airport before flying to Mississippi before campaign events there today, Santorum laughed off the claim, saying it “sound[ed] very desperate for a man who supposedly has it in the bag.”

The ABC News delegate total for the day has Santorum beating Romney 36 to 32.

At a Lincoln Day Dinner here Saturday evening, he touted his “good day” in Kansas and jabbed the Romney campaign for its claim that Santorum needs to win 65 percent of the remaining delegates to be the nominee.

“Depending on news reports, we are going to pick up anywhere from 33 to all 40 of the delegates in Kansas,” Santorum said to applause from the crowd of about 700. “So when Mitt Romney inaccurately states that I have to win 55 percent of the delegates or something like that in order to win, well, we are off to a pretty good start, aren’t we?”

Santorum told the audience his campaign is “putting a full court press on” to try and win the nomination. The next voting contests are Tuesday in Mississippi, Alabama and Hawaii. Missouri’s caucuses are March 17. He won the primary there last month, with no delegates awarded.

At the GOP event just days after the new jobs report showed economic improvement, Santorum said national security and not the economy might be the most pressing issue in November, stressing Iran and preventing that nation from developing a nuclear weapon might take precedence.

“Let’s take national security – that’s not an issue that’s talked about very much. But it’s important. People say, well, what’s going be the most important, oh jobs, jobs, jobs. Well maybe not,” Santorum said. “We’ve got a country in the Middle East that’s about, potentially about to explode a nuclear weapon which would change the face of our earth. It is the equivalent of having al Qaeda have a nuclear weapon and the resources to project that power all over the world. That is where we are with Iran today.”

The former Pennsylvania senator said that the election “has to be about things that aren’t going to be about things that aren’t going to be affected by the unemployment rate” and despite Americans’ thinking job creation is the “key domestic issue,” he thinks it is too many regulations “crushing businesses.”

“I think the reason our economy struggles and will continue to struggle – I’ve talked to businesses as I have all across this country and I hear the same thing … this elitist government knows best attitude, regulation after regulation after regulation. These are crushing businesses by compliance costs or businesses holding back because of the uncertainty of what government’s going to do next,” Santorum said.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said, “It’s not surprising that Sen. Santorum is disappointed in his performance yesterday: Mitt Romney won more delegates than any of the other candidates and continued his momentum and path to getting the delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination.

“In what was hyped as a big opportunity for Rick Santorum, he again fell short of making a dent in Mitt Romney’s already large delegate lead, much less of winning the 65 percent of the remaining delegates that is required for him to have a chance at getting 1,144.  With delegates being proportionally allocated in almost all of the upcoming states, there’s just not a chance for him to catch up.”

At his rally, Santorum was asked about putting national security at the top of the list, above the economy, and he said he “suspect[s] the administration’s policies will continue to hamper the growth of this economy,” but that is still a “question,” whether or not the economy will improve and instead pivoted to jab his opponent.

“The broader themes and broader issues here that frankly Gov. Romney is simply not in the  best position to articulate and that’s why we need a strong contrasting vision for this country and Gov. Romney doesn’t provide that and I think the people of Kansas spoke very, very loudly about their concerns about his viability in the fall and I think the more this race goes on, the larger the questions will loom about Gov. Romney’s viability to beat Barack Obama when he can’t outspend somebody 10 to one to do it,” Santorum said.

He even inferred that the administration might be nervous at the possibility that he, not Romney, will be the Republican nominee.

“That’s why if you look at our race and look at what we are doing the White House is I’m sure; well, you ask them how they feel about it,” Santorum said smiling.

Santorum also traveled Saturday to Houston where he attended a fundraiser and meeting with 200 conservatives who pledged $1.78 million for both his campaign and his super PAC, the “Red, White, and Blue Fund.” Politico first reported the event.

A Santorum aide said $85,000 went just to the campaign with donors tossing checks into a fishbowl at the fundraiser. Notable conservatives at the event included Tony Perkins, James Dobson and Richard Viguerie.

The primaries in Mississippi and Alabama are important to Santorum’s campaign, but are seen as even more crucial to Newt Gingrich’s.

An aide told reporters last week they are must wins. Santorum said Saturday evening that he had not spoken to Gingrich about what would happen if he does not win Tuesday, saying the speaker has made his intentions “pretty clear.”

But he did question his opponent’s electability.

“What does it say about his electability that he wasn’t on the ballot in Wyoming and that he finished a poor third … in Kansas, I mean I think that’s the continuing issue here that we are finishing first and second, if not second a very close third in some caucus states. We are clearly the alternative out there right and it’s just matter of working through these next couple of primaries,” Santorum told reporters.

At the dinner, the candidate thanked Missouri for his win in their primary last month, saying he has a “mutual affection” for the “Show Me” state. The district’s congresswoman, Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, also publically endorsed Santorum at the event, although the candidate thanked the congresswoman for her “early support.”

“I greatly, greatly appreciate it, and was really looking forward, ever since that day, when the caucuses would roll around just so I could say thank you and get to meet the great people of Missouri again and have the opportunity to hopefully get everybody excited about going out and going to those caucuses,” Santorum said.

ABC News’ Elizabeth Hartfield contributed to this report. 

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