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Mitt Romney ridicules Rick Santorum for ‘taking one for the team’

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PHOENIX — Mitt Romney hammered rival Rick Santorum on Thursday over his performance in Wednesday's Republican presidential debate, ridiculing the former Pennsylvania senator for his attempts to explain why he repeatedly voted against his conscience while in Congress.

“We saw Senator Santorum explain most of the night why he did or voted for things he disagreed with,” Romney said during an appearance before a meeting of the Associated Builders and Contractors. “And he talked about this as taking one for the team. I wonder what team he was taking it for. My team is the American people.”

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Romney assailed Santorum for voting for legislation in support of Planned Parenthood and the No Child Left Behind education law, and against right-to-work labor laws. He criticized him for voting five times to raise the nation's debt limit without achieving compensating cuts. And he attacked Santorum for voting for earmarks including the infamous “bridge to nowhere.”

During Wednesday night’s debate, Santorum explained the legislation that provided funding to Planned Parenthood was part of a broader bill he supported, and that had he tried to compensate for his actions by introducing legislation in support of abstinence education. His votes to raise the debt ceiling, he said, took place at a time when the deficit was not such a major concern, and he said he abandoned his support for earmarks when it became clear they were being abused.

On No Child Left Behind, Santorum said his vote was a mistake. "It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team," he said.

Romney is doubling down on his attacks against Santorum as the crucial Michigan primary approaches Tuesday. The two men were virtually tied in recent polls in the state, and a loss by Romney would be particularly devastating, because he was born and raised in Michigan and his father served as governor. Arizona also holds its primary Tuesday, but Romney holds a sizable lead in polls here.

Romney's remarks Thursday also focused on President Obama and his relationship with labor unions, a key issue for Michiganders. Romney sharply criticized the president, saying he "bows" to organized labor because of its role in supporting his presidential campaign, and has dragged his feet on their behalf on initiatives that would spur the economy, such as free-trade agreements. Obama prefers to "brush aside the principles of free enterprise and fair play and instead tilt the entire playing field in our economy towards the people who financed his campaign," Romney said. "That kind of crony capitalism we have not seen in this country to the extent that we're seeing it in this administration, I don't think in history."

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