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Santorum Says Romney Is Flawed by Too Many Similarities

Presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum said fellow Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney is a flawed candidate with too many similarities to Barack Obama on health care, cap-and-trade and government bailouts.

“I feel like I am doing a training run for the general election,” Santorum said today on ABC’s “This Week” program. “The same issues I’m out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I’m going to campaign against Barack Obama on.”

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, has won 252 delegates so far in this year’s Republican presidential primaries, trailing Romney’s 495 delegates in the contest to face Democrat Obama in the November election. Santorum said he’s won 10 states even though Romney’s campaign has outspent him -- an advantage Romney wouldn’t have in a general election.

Romney is “not going to be able to pound his opponent into the ground,” Santorum said in an interview on CNN today.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is trying to appeal to the Republican Party’s socially conservative base to rebound from primary losses to Santorum last week in Alabama and Mississippi.

In a conference call with Illinois Republican voters last week Romney pointed to his endorsements from conservative Republican leaders, including Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Their backing should “give a pretty good indication that, ‘Perhaps the guy’s OK,’” Romney said of himself. The Illinois primary is this week.

Tribune Poll

A Chicago Tribune/WGN-TV poll released last weekend showed Romney was backed by 35 percent of likely voters in Illinois and Santorum by 31 percent, within the 4-percentage point margin of error.

The survey, taken before Santorum’s wins in the March 13 Mississippi and Alabama primaries, showed 16 percent of likely Republican voters in Illinois’s March 20 primary were undecided and 46 percent said they might change their minds. It also revealed that Romney is doing better in the suburbs around Chicago, while Santorum holds the advantage outside the state’s largest metropolitan area.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is in third place in the Republican presidential race, with 131 delegates, according to an Associated Press tally that includes endorsements from party leaders who attend the convention and can vote for anyone. Representative Ron Paul of Texas has 48 delegates.

To contact the reporter on this story: Romaine Bostick in Washington at rbostick@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ann Hughey at ahughey@bloomberg.net

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