WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. Mitt Romney spent much of the middle of Wednesday's night GOP debate criticizing former Sen. Rick Santorum on two fronts: being a prodigious spender of federal funds and for supporting former Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-Democrat who has, for conservatives, come to resemble the worst of GOP moderation.
It was an effective dual-barrel attack, one that put Santorum squarely on the defensive and with little support inside the debate hall. Had he had his wits about him, he could have pointed to an October 2005 press release, in which Romney not only publicly acknowledged he was lobbying the federal government for money on home heating assistance, but was turning to Specter to get him the dough.
“As a state, Massachusetts and its people have led the way in pursuing energy efficient programs for our homes and businesses,” said Romney. “This year, it’s especially important for consumers to know that winter doesn't have to burn a hole in their wallet. Families can save hundreds of dollars by following some common sense tips.”
Low-income residents in Massachusetts are expected to be particularly affected by increases in energy costs this winter. With heating prices on the rise, Romney and Governor Granholm of Michigan have led an effort among the nation’s governors to obtain approximately $1.3 billion in emergency federal fuel assistance funding through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
Yesterday, Romney met with Senator Arlen Specter, Chairman of a key Senate Appropriations subcommittee, to lobby for the additional funding.
Specter, at the time, was chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee, which oversaw LIHEAP funding. So the fact that Romney would come to him with palms open makes sense. But it doesn't particularly help his position with respect to the 2012 Republican primary. In a Telegram and Gazette article from that same time, Romney's spokeswoman Julie Teer offered the following summary of that Specter-Romney meeting.
"The governor feels that Mr. Specter will have a sympathetic ear since he also represents a state in the Northeast," Ms. Teer said. "Gov. Romney would like as much federal assistance as we can get but he recognizes that it may be a difficult process."