Former Pennsylvania senator Arlen Specter said Thursday that Rick Santorum got his facts wrong when he said that he endorsed Specter only after securing a promise that Specter would support GOP Supreme Court nominees.
At Wednesday night's debate in Arizona, Santorum (as he is often forced to do) defended his 2004 endorsement of Specter. Specter at the time was a moderate Republican facing a conservative primary challenge, and the GOP stood by its incumbent, feeling he had the best chance to win in a nominally blue state.
As a conservative favorite, the endorsement by Santorum, then also a senator from Pennsylvania, was seen as key. He said Wednesday that Specter told him before the endorsement that he would support President Bush's nominees as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman.
"I said will you support the president's nominees? We had a 51-to-49 majority in the Senate. He said, 'I'll support the president's nominees as chairman,'" Santorum said.
But Specter said on The Michael Smerconish Program on Thursday morning that that wasn't the case.
"He is not correct. I made no commitment to him about supporting judges," Specter said. "I made no deal."
Specter also scoffed at the notion that Santorum's backing helped him turn aside the primary challenge from then-Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.). (Toomey again ran for and this time won Specter's seat in 2010, when Specter switched parties but lost the Democratic nomination.)
"His support was hardly determinative, hardly that important," Specter said, echoing comments he made after his 2004 win. He noted that his campaign ran ads featuring Bush's endorsement rather than Santorum's. Bush's “support was a lot more important," he said.
Santorum's endorsement of Specter has dogged him for nearly eight years now, as conservative activists frequently grill him on it at public events.