February 10th, 2012
03:09 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum rolls into CPAC

Washington (CNN) - Rick Santorum made one thing clear at the Conservative Political Action Conference: he's not running for vice president.

The insurgent GOP contender and his entourage stormed into CPAC ready to rumble with Mitt Romney. Santorum's haymaker of the day was aimed at the former Massachusetts governor's health care plan.

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"Who has supported in fact the step-child of 'Obamacare,' the person in Massachusetts who built the largest government-run healthcare system in the United States," Santorum asked the crowd.

Santorum defended the comment in a brief interview with CNN at CPAC.

"Look, it's Obamacare at the state level. And he still continues to advocate for it. It is a top-down government controlled approach to solving the health care problem," Santorum told CNN.

The former Pennsylvania senator had a tough act to follow. Foster Friess, the multi-millionaire mutual fund manager, warmed up the crowd with a joke at Romney's expense. Not everybody enjoyed the punch line.

"There is a little bar a couple doors down and recently a conservative, a liberal and moderate walked into a bar and the bartender says, 'Hi, Mitt,'" Friess quipped.

Santorum staffers shook their heads and smiled at the wise-crack. Friess, one aide told CNN, is not scripted.

That may explain Freiss' reaction to CNN when asked about Romney's unrelenting assaults on Santorum's record backing earmarks in Congress.

"I think Rick's in the recovery program," Friess quipped to CNN.

Santorum's top surrogate joked the program has 12 steps. "Well he's pretty well through the 12th because he's realized the abuses that earmarks had."

Team Santorum was milking its new momentum, escorting the former Pennsylvania senator from one interview to the next with a steady stream of bloggers, reporters and radio talk show hosts.

Down in the bowels of the CPAC conference, his campaign booth featured a life-size cardboard cut-out of Santorum for conservatives who failed to grab a quick grip and grin with the GOP contender.

Also at the booth, Santorum sweater vests were selling like… well better than sweater vests. So far, 80 vests had been sold at $100 a pop, the campaign told CNN.

Santorum's sons and a few of their friends were all wearing sweater vests of their own, leading one journalist to dub the crew: "the vestie boys."

Santorum was trying his best to not let it all go to his head. Asked whether the race is turning his way, he offered a quip of his own.

"If you don't like the state of the race, just wait a couple of weeks," Santorum told CNN.

– CNN's Matt Hoye and Sarah Baker contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • CPAC 2012 • Rick Santorum
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    He shouldn't be running for VP, but I would love to see who he would pick as his VP.

    February 10, 2012 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  2. vic , nashville ,tn

    In 2009 republicans created the tea party to rally against Obama care . Then they didn’t know in 2012 it will hunt their candidate
    karma

    February 10, 2012 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  3. Thomas

    One angry man .

    February 10, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |