At CNN debate, Rick Santorum skewered over 'bridge to nowhere'
GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum took a pounding from rivals over his Senate record, during the CNN debate Wednesday. MItt Romney reminded voters of Santorum's vote for the so-called 'bridge to nowhere.'
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Romney and Congressman Paul both scolded Santorum for voting to fund Planned Parenthood, which the Pennsylvanian explained was included in a large appropriations bill that also funded the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services. But no matter, explaining a funding bill is usually a no-win proposition for a former-senator-turned-presidential-candidate.Skip to next paragraph
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Romney also steered Santorum into a byzantine explanation of why he supported fellow Sen. Arlen Specter, then a moderate Republican, in his 2004 primary against conservative Pat Toomey. In short, Santorum explained, he was trying to provide cover for expected conservative US Supreme Court nominees whom Senator Specter had promised to support as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. But later, Specter became a Democrat and provided the crucial 60th vote for Obama’s health-care reform. Ouch.
None of these individually is a major blight on Santorum’s background, but taken together, they paint him as an inconsistent conservative. At the debate, he appeared defensive and off his game. The anticipated discussion of conservative social views, for which Santorum is best known – most recently, on birth control and women in the military – didn’t produce much in the way of fireworks, as the candidates largely agree. But for a national audience looking ahead to the general election, it wasn’t the best advertisement for a Republican Party looking to attract independent voters to its nominee in November.
The other candidate on stage at the Mesa Arts Center was Newt Gingrich, who once filled Santorum’s role as the “not Romney” candidate. Former Speaker Gingrich came prepared to talk ideas, especially on energy, and seemed the happy warrior, as he seeks to post a win or two on Super Tuesday – particularly in his home state of Georgia. It was a full hour into the debate before he challenged a question from moderator John King of CNN.
But with the spotlight focused squarely on the Rick-versus-Mitt show, there was little room for Gingrich to break out of his latest slump in the national polls.