Santorum: Romney, Paul have backroom deal

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, speaks during a Tea Party rally Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012, in St. Clair Shores, Mich. AP Photo/Eric Gay

AP Photo/Eric Gay

ST. CLAIR SHORES, Mich. - Rick Santorum on Saturday suggested two of his rivals for the GOP presidential nomination are trying to strike a backroom, running-mate deal.

Asked at a Tea Party rally here why former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas seemed to be ganging up on Santorum during Wednesday's debate in Arizona, the former senator from Pennsylvania quipped, "Yeah, look, I didn't know we picked president and vice president before the election.

"The coordination that I felt at that debate was pretty clear," he said. "I felt like messages were being slipped behind my chair. It's pretty remarkable that in 20 debates, Ron Paul never attacked Mitt Romney."

It's not the first time Santorum has made the charge. Right after the CNN-sponsored debate on Wednesday, he told reporters, "You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they've got going together. Their commercials look a lot alike, and so do their attacks."

Paul on Friday flatly denied there is any coordination between the two campaigns. In an appearance on CNBC, Paul said, "Absolutely not." And then, quoting former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Paul said, "I thought Pawlenty cleared it up pretty well. He said, 'If you think Ron Paul's going to do a backroom deal, you've got another thought coming,' something along those lines."

Also on Saturday, Santorum did some attacking of his own, calling Romney "uniquely unqualified to take on government control," during a speech at an Americans for Prosperity conference in Troy, Mich.

Earlier, in St. Clair Shores, he called Romney's criticisms that Santorum isn't conservative "laughable," and mocked Romney's campaign record.

"He's had to be what he wants to be," Santorum said. "'Oh, I'm running for the Senate against Ted Kennedy, I'll be a liberal.' 'I'm running for governor of Massachusetts, so I'll be a moderate.' ... And now, 'Oh, I'm gonna run for the Republican nomination for president, I'll be a conservative today.' What's he gonna be tomorrow?"

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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