Scenes from a Mitt Romney surrogate conference call, brought to you by Dave Weigel:
So the Romney campaign held two surrogate conference calls today, giving Idaho's Gov. Butch Otter and Missouri's former Sen. Talent (and others) space to trash Santorum. Talent did what he'd refused to in January: He criticized Santorum for supporting Medicare Part D. And then a reporter on the call pointed out that Talent had supported the same bill.
For the record, Butch Otter voted for the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act as well. So it's anybody's guess how the Romney campaign allowed Santorum's support for this to even be broached as a topic on the conference call is a complete mystery.
Later on, Talent made an effort to clean up this mess with the Weekly Standard:
Talent clarified that he didn’t mean to say that Santorum's (and his own) votes for bills like Medicare Part D can't "be explained or justified, because they can" but that Santorum's self-described image as a true conservative doesn't reflect the truth.
"Today, he's running in Missouri anyway as a kind of Jim DeMint conservative, which suggests that during his service he was actually much stronger on those issues," Talent said. "So what he's suggesting is misleading on two levels. He wasn't, even for Republicans at that time, he took a more liberal position on these issues, and then if you look at how the party's judging those things now, it's just hypocritical of him to suggest to people that he’s the conservative they can trust year in and year out, regardless of where the winds in Washington are going."
The Standard's Michael Warren followed up by asking, "But is this a mantle to which Romney himself could lay claim?" and cited Romney's "support for an individual health insurance mandate." Talent offered, "The mandate didn't bother Rick four years ago when he endorsed Gov. Romney [for president]."
But four years ago, the mandate didn't bother a lot of Republicans, including DeMint! (You may have noticed that time in 2008 when "Mitt Romney" ran for "president" on the strength of his novel "Massachusetts health care reform.")
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