February 24th, 2012
05:05 PM ET
2 years ago

Specter disputes Santorum account of support

(CNN) – Arlen Specter disputed on Thursday Rick Santorum's account of a conversation which Santorum said the two Senate colleagues had ahead of Specter's 2004 campaign for reelection.

At Wednesday's CNN Arizona Republican Presidential Debate, Santorum said he offered his endorsement of fellow Pennsylvanian Specter – which Republicans have criticized – after Specter offered assurances he would support President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. "Every nominee he supported, passed," Santorum said.

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Specter said on CNN's John King, USA that the conversation did not happen, at least as Santorum described it.

"No," he said. "I made no promise about supporting anybody. I wouldn't do it. It would be wrong to make a promise in advance of knowing who the nominee was and what the qualifications were."

Specter continued, "There was never any discussion at all between Senator Santorum and me about support. It was just assumed that he would support me like I had supported him when he had a very tough election back in 1994."

Specter aknowledged in a 2004 CNN interview following his re-election that he had "conversations" with party members who were upset with him, adding, "I've supported all of President Bush's nominees in committee and on the floor." Specter went on to vote for two of Bush's Supreme Court nominees in 2006, Samuel Alito and John Roberts.

Mitt Romney made Specter an issue in Wednesday's debate, saying that if Santorum had not backed him, Specter might not have been reelected and the health care reform championed by the President Barack Obama might not have passed the Senate.

"He asked me to support him," Santorum explained in response. "I said will you support the president's nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I'll support the president's nominees as chairman."

In a Friday interview on CNN's The Situation Room, Santorum said Specter promised to "fight" for Bush's nominees.

"Senator Spector, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, promised me to move those nominations and fight for those nominations to go through the committee and to get on the floor of the senate for a vote," Santorum told CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

The Romney campaign advanced their candidates' criticism of Santorum in a web video released Friday.

"Rick Santorum supported Specter over conservative candidates twice," the narrator says, over video of Specter and Obama. "If Rick Santorum couldn't say no to liberal Arlen Specter, can you really trust him to change Washington?"

On Thursday, Specter would not speculate about why Santorum offered the account, but said "it may be politically expedient."

In 2004, Specter was a Republican facing a primary challenge from Pat Toomey, a candidate seen by some as more conservative. Specter ran his most recent primary campaign as a Democrat to avoid a similar situation. He said on Thursday he is undecided in the presidential race.

"I am not impressed with any of the Republican candidates. I think President Obama is in the driver's seat at the moment," he said. "But a campaign is a long process. And what I intend to do is to follow it closely. And when the time comes to cast a ballot, they call it a secret ballot."

For his part, Toomey said Thursday that the 2004 race is "ancient history."

"I think Santorum made a mistake; he was on the wrong side," Toomey told The National Review. "But I got over that a long time ago. I actually campaigned for Rick Santorum in 2006."

He said he favors Romney's tax plan over that of Santorum, but he has not yet picked which of the candidates he supports.

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Also see:

Five things we learned from Wednesday's debate

Detroit Free Press endorses Romney

Candidates enter critical phase after possible final debate

Obama to talk energy and gas prices at Miami speech

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. NVa Native

    Just like Romoney won't answer questions during a debate, the only time Satanorum will answer when he can use his truthiness – which is not using truth.

    February 23, 2012 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    I believe Specter. Ricky has shown himself to be too much of a whack-a-doodle lately to believe anything he says.

    February 23, 2012 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  3. BeverlyNC

    A Republican lying? What a shock. They lie about everything. It would be a news story if one ever told the truth about any issue. I am so tired of these self-righteous "Christians' breaking every tenet of religion yet just making up constant lies and 'bearing false witness" against each other and President Obama.
    We need our real leader, President Obama, to stay in office so he can finish our economic recovery, job creation, education refunding and renewal, and putting focus on the People. Republicans care nothing about the People. They serve Wall St, corporations, and billionaires who buy their campaigns for them. Republicans have betrayed the People and we need to remove all from every local, state, and national office and restore integrity and character back to a Congress who wil actually serve the People as they took an oath to do.

    February 23, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  4. Seattle Sue

    You really can't believe much of anything Santorum says.

    February 23, 2012 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  5. Larry L

    Santorum is desperately trying to stay in the limelight – even if he appears to be a dishonest fool in the process. Moderates and independents are stampeding toward President Obama's side – a wise move... The Republican Clown Car just keeps rolling around the circus ring...

    February 23, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  6. Thomas

    Rick Santorum is out of his league .

    In a big way !

    February 23, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  7. cali girl

    Liar liar pants on fire!

    February 23, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  8. Rick

    It might seem that Arlen Specter is just old fashioned enough to be real in his judgement. What our political system needs today. People that honestly conducts the PEOPLES business, not their business.

    February 23, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |