On eve of Super Tuesday, Santorum blasts Romney on health care

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during during a campaign rally at the New Life Assembly of God, Thursday, March 1, 2012, in Spokane, Wash. AP Photo/Eric Gay

Rick Santorum
AP Photo/Eric Gay

Updated: 5:43 p.m. ET

Rick Santorum on Monday attacked his chief rival Mitt Romney regarding recent reports that he suggested the Massachusetts health care law could be used as a model for the nation.

The website BuzzFeed dug up a series of television clips in which Romney seemed to encourage President Obama to look to the Bay State during the health care debate in 2009. During the course of this year's presidential campaign, Romney has repeatedly had to defend the Massachusetts plan, saying it was good for his state but should not have been adopted at the federal level.

"When it was fashionable to be for individual mandate, he was for individual mandates," Santorum said in a conference call Monday. "He tried to persuade the president in this debate to adopt his government mandate."

He added, "Conservatives will not trust him. They will not rally around him."

Santorum also said Romney had misled the American people on his record and that Republicans would do well not to nominate a candidate who would have to cede the battle regarding health care.

The Romney campaign shot back a response refuting Santorum's charges.

"Rick Santorum has a habit of creating distortions, exaggerations and falsehoods about Mitt Romney's record," spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "Over the last several years, Governor Romney has said many times, in many different formats, that his health care reform plan was the right model for Massachusetts, and that it should not be used as a one-size-fits-all national health insurance plan. Governor Romney is a federalist and has always said that states should be free to come up with their own health care reforms."

The two men are running closely in polls across Super Tuesday states, including in the delegate-rich Ohio, where both have staked claims. Santorum conceded that Romney is outspending him 12-to-1 in the Buckeye State.

"To suggest that this is David and Goliath is probably a little bit of an understatement," Santorum said. "We're out here fighting on principle."

Watch Romney's comments here.

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    Naureen Khan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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