Tired of hearing Mitt Romney crow about his record of balancing the budget while governor of Massachusetts, Rick Santorum delivered what may have been the best zinger of Wednesday night's CNN debate in Arizona.

By Romney's implication, Santorum said, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis -- a liberal bogeyman -- is qualified to be president.

"Yes, you balanced the budget for four years, off a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes," said Santorum. "I'd like to see it federally. But don't go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years. Does that make him qualified to be president of the United States?"

Dukakis led Vice President George H.W. Bush until late in the 1988 presidential election, when Bush overtook him to win the White House.

Romney, meanwhile, deployed a creative way of giving Santorum the credit/blame for President Barack Obama's health care law: If he hadn't endorsed Arlen Specter in 2004, he never would have been in the Senate to switch parties and ultimately vote in favor of Obamacare.

Santorum responded as he always has: He backed Specter, he said, only after Santorum won from Specter a promise that he would not block pro-life Supreme Court justices as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. The resulting confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito vindicated him, Santorum said.

Romney insisted that such an explanation was "torturous."

"Just about as torturous as six years later blaming me for Obamacare," Santorum quipped.

As @philipaklein tweeted, Romney was pro-choice in 2004, just as Specter was.


Philip Klein
Romney attacks Santo for endorsing "pro-choice" Specter in 2004 -- but Romney was still publicly pro-choice that year.

Related on HuffPost: