Washington (CNN) – Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum offered a mea culpa Saturday, telling conservative activists that he regrets helping Sen. Arlen Specter win re-election in 2004 and vowed to help try and defeat him in November.
Specter is a longtime centrist Republican who abandoned the GOP to become a Democrat last year. Six years ago, Santorum was questioned by his fellow social conservatives for agreeing to back Specter in the Republican primary against Rep. Pat Toomey. Santorum, who lost his own re-election in 2006, said he should have listened to his wife, Karen.
"How many times have I said this in my almost 20 years in marriage, 'I should have listened to my wife,'" Santorum said in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Make no mistake about it I will be working day and night for Pat Toomey to be the next senator from Pennsylvania."
If Specter wins the Democratic primary, he will face Toomey, once again, only this time in the general election.
Santorum broke from the routine of other speakers addressing this three day conference and took a few questions from the audience such as: Why is he not challenging Specter?
"Because Pat Toomey's earned it," Santorum responded.
But the former Pennsylvania senator has not ruled a return to public life and has acknowledged that he is eyeing a White House run in 2012. Another questioner publicly pledged to help his presidential campaign if he in fact decides to run.
"Bless your heart," responded Santorum.
Santorum will visit early presidential-voting states Iowa and New Hampshire in the coming months, speaking before the influential Iowa Christian Alliance on March 9 and keynoting
the Cheshire County Republican Lincoln Day Dinner in Keene, New Hampshire April 30.