Mitt Romney kept the pressure on rival Rick Santorum as he campaigned across Michigan Saturday, telling audiences that the former Pennsylvania Senator could not be relied on to stand for conservative principles.
Speaking from notes at a gathering of Americans for Prosperity, a group affiliated with the "tea party," hours after Santorum delivered a blistering critique of his record, Romney focused on outlining his credentials as a conservative before the group, which met him with a polite but mild reception. Romney described his efforts as governor of Massachusetts to crack down on illegal immigration and block a bill that would have allowed "cloning and embryo farming in our state."
In a diversion that is not generally part of his stump speech, he argued that he became "the nation's champion" in fighting to reverse the Massachusetts law allowing gay marriage.
"I can attest for my conservative credentials by quoting someone who endorsed me in my 2008 campaign: Sen. Santorum," Romney told the crowd, before quoting Santorum praising him on the Laura Ingraham show four years ago as "a guy who is really conservative and who we can trust."
He went on to note Santorum's defense of his vote for the No Child Left Behind education law, which the former Pennsylvania senator now opposes. During the Arizona debate, Santorum said his vote amounted to taking "one for the team."
"We can't do that anymore. We can't continue to take one for the team," Romney told the crowd in Troy. "My team is the people of the United States of America and I'm going to fight for that team, not the partisans in Washington."
Romney then reminded the group of Santorum's support for former Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania's longtime senator who was reviled by many conservatives and ultimately became a Democrat.
Romney – naming Specter no less than seven times – noted that Santorum supported Specter's reelection campaigns as well as his run for president in 1996: "There were other conservatives running like Bob Dole. He didn't support them, he supported the pro-choice candidate Arlen Specter," Romney said.
"That's taking one for the team. That's business as usual in Washington," he continued. "We have to have principled conservative leadership, and I have demonstrated that in my life and demonstrated it as a governor."
Romney's surrogates here in Michigan seem increasingly confident that the Michigan native and son of three-term Gov. George Romney will win Tuesday's primary. Michigan Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette, Romney's state co-chairman, said the former Massachusetts governor has enhanced his chances by "fighting like an underdog."
"There's a lot of attraction of Michigan voters to someone who is scrappy and fighting and going to earn every vote," Schuette said. "That's part of the Romney appeal. George [Romney] was a bigger than life, tough, scrappy guy, and Mitt's showing that here in Michigan."