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Santorum says La. win shows he’s viable candidate

Rick Santorum greeted supporters at a rally in Bellevue, Wis., on Saturday. Wisconsin’s GOP primary is April 3.

Darren Hauck/REUTERS

Rick Santorum greeted supporters at a rally in Bellevue, Wis., on Saturday. Wisconsin’s GOP primary is April 3.

On the morning after his landslide win in Louisiana, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum contended the results show he is a strong contender for the GOP nomination and it is the Romney campaign that is “desperate.”

“Even though a lot of folks are saying this race is over, the people in Louisiana said, ‘No, no it’s not,’” Santorum said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “They still want to see someone that they can trust, someone who’s not running an Etch A Sketch campaign, but one that has their principles written on their heart, not on an erasable tablet.”

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The Etch A Sketch line was a reference to an analogy drawn last week by Eric Fehrnstrom, a senior adviser to Mitt Romney, who said the GOP frontrunner could “kind of shake it up” and “start all over again” in a general election campaign against President Obama.

Santorum, who trails Romney 568-273 in the delegate count, according to the Associated Press, argued that the score is, in fact, closer. The former Pennsylvania senator repeated his contention that 79 delegates from Florida and Arizona — all awarded to Romney after winner-take-all contests — will ultimately be divided proportionally. The Republican National Committee halved Florida and Arizona’s total delegates after the states rescheduled their primary dates, and the states’ Republican leaders changed their delegate allocations to winner-take-all.

Florida Republican Party chairman Lenny Curry told the National Review last week that Santorum’s argument is “absurd,” and Jim Bopp, a member of the RNC rules committee, said the states were within their rights to use winner-take-all formats.

Still, Santorum stood by his position on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of bad math there that doesn’t reflect the reality of what’s going on, on the ground,” he said. “I think we’re in much, much better shape than what the numbers that are out there suggest.”

Santorum also reacted to teasing he took from the Romney campaign after Saturday’s victory speech. “Rick Santorum,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams wrote in an e-mail to reporters, “is like a football team celebrating a field goal when they are losing by seven touchdowns with less than a minute left in the game.”

Santorum laughed when read the quote by CBS News’ reporter Nora O’Donnell, who was filling in for Bob Schieffer.

“That’s just a desperate campaign that has no message,” Santorum said.

The former Pennsylvania senator struggled to explain a statement he made during a Thursday stump speech in San Antonio that was widely interpreted as a suggestion that reelecting President Obama would be better than electing Romney, whom he said is only “a little different “ than the incumbent.

“If he’s going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have, instead of taking a risk with someone who may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future,” Santorum said in Texas.

On Sunday, he sought to clarify the statement.

“I said ‘we,’ and I was talking collective ‘we,’ as the voters, would decide to stay with what they have,” he explained on Sunday. “Not, not me. Obviously, I’m running for president, as I said before, because I believe Barack Obama must be defeated, period. I was saying ‘we,’ as in the voters, might decide that.”

Santorum said he would support whomever the GOP nominee is.

Asked for his thoughts about Obama’s commentary calling for a complete investigation of the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, in Florida — and Newt Gingrich’s criticism of the president’s suggestion that Martin would look like his son, if he and Michelle Obama had one — Santorum offered diplomatic responses.

Gingrich called Obama’s words “disgraceful” during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show and asked “Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be OK because it didn’t look like him?”

He disparaged neither man, but expressed contempt for the gunman, George Zimmerman, and sympathy for Martin’s family.

“All I can say is that, again, there are lot of people who have very perverted views of reality,” Santorum said, “and obviously as we see, people who do horrible things for seemingly senseless reasons. … I would just say to the president, to everybody, that we need to focus on being there to be supportive for the family that’s going through this tragedy.”

Callum Borchers can be reached at callum.borchers@gmail.com
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