Huffpost Politics

Rick Santorum To Mitt Romney: You Lie

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Rick Santorum said that Mitt Romney has misled voters about his position on a federal mandate for individuals to purchase health insurance, hammering his primary opponent hard one day before Ohio voters go to the polls.

"During the heart of the debate on Obamacare, Mitt Romney stepped forward in 2009 and advocated for a mandate, an individual mandate. Taxing people who did not buy insurance, that is an individual mandate," Santorum said on a conference call organized abruptly by his campaign, between campaign events.

Santorum was referring to a 2009 op-ed in USA Today, written by Romney, that came to light over the weekend.

"People are starting to realize that what you have with Governor Romney is someone who is simply not a genuine article, he's not someone you can trust on the issue of big government," Santorum said.

"Then for Mitt Romney to do what he's done on repeated occasions, to mislead the public as to what his position was, to continue to mislead, and to try to obfuscate by just throwing negative ads at someone and not having to respond to the fact that he was an advocate for something he says he wasn't, it's firm evidence that conservatives will not trust him, will not rally around him through this primary season," Santorum said.

"And ultimately, I don't care how much money he will spend, we will be the nominee," he thundered.

The Romney campaign responded with the same defense that their candidate has consistently used when criticized for the health care overhaul he signed into law as Massachusetts governor in 2006.

"Rick Santorum has a habit of creating distortions, exaggerations and falsehoods about Mitt Romney’s record. Over the last several years, Governor Romney has said many times, in many different formats, that his health care reform plan was the right model for Massachusetts, and that it should not be used as a one-size-fits-all national health insurance plan," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "Governor Romney is a federalist and has always said that states should be free to come up with their own health care reforms."

The problem with the 2009 op-ed is that there is no mention by Romney of what has been a standard line: each state should be free to take the approach they think is best.

Romney has made comments over the years, particularly in a 2007 appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," that he thought a mandate approach could serve as a national model.

It is a good issue for Santorum to hit Romney on, and he is clearly trying to regain the offensive in Ohio to stop a repeat of last week's result in Michigan. Santorum held a large lead in Michigan, only to see Romney's edge in money and TV advertising help his opponent to a victory.

Santorum also started to spin the results in Ohio ahead of time, just as his campaign tried to do last week. He pointed out that Romney and a super PAC supporting Romney are outspending him by a margin of 12 to 1.

"To suggest this is David and Goliath is probably a little bit of an understatement," Santorum said. "No matter what the result is tomorrow in Ohio, we're going to feel great because under that barrage we stood tall, we stood on principle, and we were able to come out and run a great race in this state."

The reality is, if Santorum loses Ohio, it will be very hard for him to argue he is still competing with Romney.

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