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Romney Doubles Down on Curious Claim about Santorum’s Spending Record

8:44 AM, Feb 20, 2012 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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Mitt Romney is now explicitly arguing that Rick Santorum is not a fiscal conservative. CNN writes, “Mitt Romney unleashed his harshest public attacks to date on his surging rival, Rick Santorum, during a rally in Boise Friday. The former Massachusetts governor told an audience of more than one thousand people that Santorum was not a fiscal conservative, and accused him of contributing to the rising federal deficit during his time in the Senate.”  CNN reports that Romney said, “If you want a fiscal conservative you can’t vote for Rick Santorum, ’cause he’s not.”

Santorum and Romney

As was detailed last week, the National Taxpayers Union (NTU) would seemingly beg to differ. During a majority of Santorum’s 12 years in the Senate, NTU gave the Pennsylvania senator an A grade along with its “Taxpayers’ Friend Award,” given to “the strongest supporters of responsible tax and spending policies.” Across those dozen years, NTU never once gave Santorum less than a B, or “good,” rating. Of the 50 senators who served throughout Santorum’s tenure, NTU ranked Santorum 5th. 

What’s more, the four senators who ranked higher all represented more conservative states. In fact, NTU’s grades show that Santorum was not only by far the most fiscally conservative senator among those who represented states as left-leaning as Pennsylvania; he also beat 22 senators (16 of them Republicans) who were representing Republican-leaning states. All in all, taking into account the state he was representing, one could certainly make the case that Santorum was the most fiscally conservative of the 50 senators who served throughout his tenure. 

So, how can Romney claim that Santorum is not a fiscal conservative? The former Massachusetts governor relies on a few isolated votes or anecdotal notions. At the Idaho rally, Romney said of Santorum, “He voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts. And he’s a big proponent of earmarks.” 

Will GOP voters buy it?  As Bill Kristol wrote last week, “The Romney campaign often gives the impression that it thinks Republican primary voters are really stupid — and it doesn’t do a very good job of hiding its contempt. The Obama administration clearly thinks the American people are really stupid — and it doesn’t do a very good job of hiding its contempt. It would be nice if the Republican nominee could contrast his respect for the American people with the Obama administration’s contempt.”

And it will be interesting to see whether Romney’s attacks on Santorum’s (actually rather good) fiscal record will boomerang on him.  

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