Santorum downplays Romney's endorsement haul, compares rival to McCain

Published April 01, 2012

| FoxNews.com

Rick Santorum fought Sunday to downplay Mitt Romney's growing list of endorsements from Republican Party figures, dismissing the support as the work of an "establishment" pushing the party to nominate another "moderate" just like John McCain in 2008. 

The former Pennsylvania senator, who bills himself as the true conservative in the race, urged the party to draw lessons from the 2008 race. He said the protracted primary between then-Sen. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton resulted in the "best candidate" for the Democrats, while Republicans decided, "We've got to wrap this thing up" and picked McCain as their nominee. 

"We came up with someone who ... wasn't able to win," Santorum said on "Fox News Sunday." "We don't need to repeat that again. We don't need to bail out and not have the best candidate to take Barack Obama on in the fall."

Santorum made the appeal as Romney not only builds his delegate lead but picks up big-name Republican endorsements. Over the past week, that list has grown to include Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former President George H.W. Bush. On Sunday, Wisconsin freshman Sen. Ron Johnson also endorsed Romney. 

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, while not formally throwing his support behind the GOP front-runner, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that "the chances are overwhelming" Romney will win the nomination. He strongly suggested the party should wrap up the primary process. 

"Most of the members of the Senate Republican conference are either supporting him, or they have the view that I do, that it's time to turn our attention to the fall campaign and begin to make the case against the president of the United States," he said. 

The candidates head next into Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Polls show Romney holding onto a steady lead in the state expected to be the battleground of the day, Wisconsin. Romney on Saturday predicted a win in the state, though he said he doesn't want to "count the delegates before they hatch." 

Santorum, though, said Sunday he would "absolutely" stay in the race even if he doesn't win that primary. He dismissed Romney's recent support, describing the developments as a sign "the establishment is getting nervous." 

The former Pennsylvania senator predicted he'd do "exceptionally well" in the Pennsylvania primary later this month, as well as a string of contests slated for May. Santorum warned that Republicans nominate a "moderate" as their nominee at their own risk. 

Still, Santorum neglected to mention that in 2008, Romney was seen as one of the strongest alternatives to McCain in that presidential nominating contest. 

Asked about that detail Sunday after the interview, Santorum said: "I'm saying that, you know, we settled on a candidate who wasn't a strong candidate in 2008, and obviously we had a field out there ... But I think in this race, the good thing about this race is that we've had some conservative alternatives to the establishment candidates. We didn't really have very good ones the last time around. And at least the ones I thought maybe would have been good alternatives didn't last very long."

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http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/01/santorum-compares-romney-to-mccain-urges-gop-not-to-bail-out/