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POLITICAL NOTEBOOK

Mitt Romney urges firing of energy officials

Mitt Romney said President Obama had wanted energy prices to go up, but only recently had ‘‘an election- year conversion’’ to push them down.
Mitt Romney said President Obama had wanted energy prices to go up, but only recently had ‘‘an election- year conversion’’ to push them down.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Mitt Romney on Sunday not only blamed President Obama for the rising gasoline prices, but said that the president should fire three of his Cabinet members who oversee energy issues.

Tagging them the “gas hike trio’’ and pointing to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson, the former Massachusetts governor said they should lose their jobs.

Romney also said Obama had wanted energy prices to go up, but only recently had “an election-year conversion’’ to push them down.

“They ought to be fired,’’ Romney said on “Fox News Sunday,’’ repeating a charge he made at a campaign event Saturday night in Collinsville, Ill. “He’s now decided that gasoline prices should come down. Well, the ‘gas hike trio’ has been going in the other direction. Time for them to go, probably hand in their resignations if he’s really serious about that.’’

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Romney said he has heard stories on the campaign trail about families struggling to cope with the rising gasoline prices to go to work or take children to soccer practice.

In addition to gas prices, Romney blamed Obama for the strife in Afghanistan and for not doing more to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

But Romney largely avoided laying out any prescriptions of his own.

Unlike some of his Republican rivals, Romney would not say whether he thinks withdrawal should be accelerated in Afghanistan.

“Well the timing of withdrawal is going to be dependent upon what you hear from the conditions on the ground,’’ Romney said.

Romney blamed Obama for not imposing stronger sanctions on Iran earlier in his presidency and for not speaking out in favor of dissidents in the country. Obama, along with Senator John Kerry, has recently said the Republican presidential candidates should not be so casual about talking about going to war with Iran.

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“There’s nothing casual about Iran having a nuclear weapon,’’ Romney said on Sunday. “There’s nothing casual abut Iran having a fissile material they could give to Hamas or Hezbollah.’’

Romney also talked about how his campaign organization is superior to that of his chief rival, Rick Santorum, and had the necessary structure to go up again an incumbent president. But Romney backed off of his contentions that he had delegate math on his side, suggesting such talk was for “insiders’’ even though his campaign has spent nearly two weeks giving briefings and sending press releases making that exact case.

“I know a lot of people will talk about delegates, and strategies, and math, and that’s all very interesting to the insiders,’’ Romney said. “But I think the American people want to see someone who has the leadership, skill, and experience to defeat the president - and a vision of conservatism that will get American on track again.” — MATT VISER

Republican Catholics cool to Santorum so far at polls

At El Sendero De La Cruz evangelical church, Rick Santorum sought prayers along with votes.

He told the San Juan, Puerto Rico, congregation that he felt “very blessed’’ to be with people of faith and said he can withstand the demands of campaigning because of the many people like them he meets while running for president.

“The first thing they almost always say to me, ‘I’m praying for you,’ ’’ Santorum said.

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It is the kind of spirit-infused language that helps Santorum connect with evangelical Republicans. Yet, he is nowhere near as successful with his fellow Roman Catholics.

Across all states where Republican primary voters were asked their religion in exit polls, Mitt Romney, a Mormon, trounced Santorum among Catholics, with an average margin of victory above 20 percentage points.

Even in Southern states, where Romney has struggled, Catholics broke his way.

The results are surprising given that the former Pennsylvania senator puts Catholicism at the center of his career and life.

Known for attending Mass almost daily, Santorum organized a Catholic study group for lawmakers when he served in Congress, has fought abortion, and defended traditional marriage.

“Just being Catholic by no means buys you anything in the Catholic vote anymore,’’ said Mark Gray, a researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. — ASSOCIATED PRESS