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Ron Paul, Rick Santorum Suggest Foul Play From Romney Campaign

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Mitt Romney scored two minor but symbolically important victories on Saturday -- a first-place finish in the CPAC Straw poll and a win in the Maine caucus -- each of which set off accusations of foul play from the second place finisher.

In an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) suggested that Romney had doctored the results of the CPAC contest.

"I don't try to rig straw polls," he said. "You have to talk to the Romney campaign and how many tickets they bought... We've heard all sorts of things."

Meanwhile, late Saturday night, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) sent an email to supporters that essentially alleged collusion between the Romney campaign and the Maine Republican Party without actually mentioning Romney by name. A portion of the email is below:

In Washington County -- where Ron Paul was incredibly strong -- the caucus was delayed until next week just so the votes wouldn’t be reported by the national media today.

Of course, their excuse for the delay was "snow."

That’s right. A prediction of 3-4 inches -- that turned into nothing more than a dusting -- was enough for a local GOP official to postpone the caucuses just so the results wouldn’t be reported tonight.

This is MAINE we’re talking about. The GIRL SCOUTS had an event today in Washington County that wasn’t cancelled!

And just the votes of Washington County would have been enough to put us over the top.

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment. And it's hard to imagine that they will take the accusations all that seriously, at least with respect to the CPAC result. Santorum, after all, could have bought tickets just like Romney allegedly did. He didn't.

As for Maine, the real story there is not that Romney won but that Ron Paul and his campaign have been left so aggrieved. The Paul and Romney campaigns have been in a détente since the campaign started, with each candidate expressing admiration for the other. It's unclear whether that changes now, but it certainly doesn't help Romney to have Paul's legion of backers believe that he stole a caucus, no matter how minor, from their still-bare win column.

UPDATE: The Romney campaign does, in fact, choose to engage Santorum, with the following statement from spokesperson Andrea Saul.

Rick Santorum has a history of making statements that aren’t grounded in the truth. Yesterday Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll and won a separate nationwide survey of conservatives conducted by CPAC organizers. Also, Mitt Romney won the Maine caucuses. Conservative voters recognize that in order to change Washington, we need someone who isn't a creature of Washington.

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