Posted at 02:30 PM ET, 03/26/2012

On Supreme Court steps, Rick Santorum slams Mitt Romney as lacking credibility on health care

This post has been updated.

At an impromptu campaign appearance Monday afternoon on the steps of the Supreme Court, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum seized on oral arguments on the national health care overhaul to slam Mitt Romney for his role shepherding health reform as governor of Massachusetts.

“If you want Obamacare repealed, I’m the guy to do it, not Mitt Romney,” Santorum said during the brief campaign stop.

He added that if Romney becomes the GOP nominee and tries to make the case for repealing the national health care law, “the Obama machine will turn it back on him” in the general election.

As Santorum addressed the crowds of pro- and anti-health care law protesters gathered outside the Supreme Court for Monday’s oral arguments, behind him a group of health care law supporters was singing, “We Shall Overcome.”

They were soon drowned out by cheers of “Rick! Rick! Rick!” by a crowd of Santorum supporters.

In an interview on MSNBC Monday morning, Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley said that the former Pennsylvania senator is holding a campaign event on the steps of the Supreme Court Monday afternoon because “this is the issue in the upcoming November election.”

“This is where the fight is happening, at the Supreme Court,” Gidley said. “And there’s a reason Mitt Romney isn’t here, and that’s because Mitt Romney basically wrote this piece of legislation. . . Mitt Romney’s not here. Well, he can’t be. He’s not credible on this issue.”

Romney campaign spokesman Ryan Williams responded in a statement, “Senator Santorum is becoming increasingly shrill as his campaign hopes fade. It’s important that all Republicans keep their focus on President Obama because if we want to repeal Obamacare we need to defeat him first. Obamacare is bad policy and bad law and when Mitt Romney is president he will get rid of it.”

Santorum, who lags far behind Romney in the delegate race but on Saturday bested the former Massachusetts governor in the Louisiana primary, has been steadily ramping up his campaign-trail critiques of Romney on the issue of health care.

He got in some hot water last week when he took one such criticism further than he has in the past, suggesting that voters might as well keep President Obama in office rather than elect Romney because the records of the two on health care are so similar. Santorum later walked back the comment.

Still, it has dogged him on the campaign trail and was at the root of a heated episode over the weekend in which Santorum swore when asked by a New York Times reporter about the remark.

Asked about the confrontation, Gidley on Monday acknowledged that “there might have been a better word.” But he also echoed Santorum’s explanation, telling MSNBC that “if you don’t take on the New York Times, you’re really not a conservative at all.”

“The bottom line is. . .if we’re going to take on Barack Obama on the issue of health care, then you have to have a candidate who is credible on the issue of health care,” Gidley said. “Mitt Romney isn’t that candidate.”

By  |  02:30 PM ET, 03/26/2012

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company