Rick Santorum today attempted to take back comments in which he said Barack Obama is a “snob” because he wants to see as many Americans as possible go to college.

Speaking on CNN, Santorum said when he called Obama a snob, he was speaking more in terms of Obama’s larger policy agenda.

“I was giving a long riff about the president mandating things on people,” Santorum said Friday. “I was talking about the government and president mandating healthcare and, you know, what kind of loans we’re going to get.”

Santorum’s comment came in response to President Obama saying that every American should have the chance to go to college, a community college, vocational school or technical school.

“And so I was commenting on the general attitude of, as I do in all of my speeches, of top down, government knows best,” Santorum added. “And so I — I used the term snob. You know, it was a — it was a strong term, probably not the smartest thing.”

This is the second phrase Rick Santorum has regressively edited back this week. Three days ago, he expressed regret at the choice of words he used to describe his reaction to JFK’s “separation of church and state” speech:

Rick Santorum said Sunday that John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech on the separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.” On Tuesday, he said he wished he “had that particular line back.”

When conservative radio host Laura Ingraham challenged him on the apparently off-message comments that have provoked considerable controversy, the GOP presidential candidate said, “I would agree with you on that. I wish I had that particular line back.”

Yet Santorum went on to defend his criticism of Kennedy’s speech and launched an attack on President Barack Obama. “And if you read President Kennedy’s text, while there were certainly some very important things and good things he said in that, there were some things that triggered in my opinion the privatization of faith and I think that’s a bad thing.” He continued, “I think we need to have a free exercise of religion in this country and it’s important for those First Amendment freedoms to be alive and well in America and I think they are threatened here in America as we’ve seen by President Obama, not by Rick Santorum.”

Both of these examples suggest Charles Krauthammer was right when he wrote that Rick Santorum knows why he lost Arizona and Michigan Tuesday. They also lend credence to Ann Coulter’s theory that “the problem with Santorum” is not his conservative positions, but the way he expresses them.

The question is: Will Santorum be able to move forward with a message that inspires and reminds voters why they gave him a chance in the first place? Revisiting his more controversial comments from the past few weeks doesn’t help to advance his campaign. The better plan would be to do what Romney did shortly before Michigan: Reintroduce his ideas to improve the economy. Santorum should talk again about his coal-mining grandpa and not waste time trying to convince voters he’s cool with contraception or career women. And always, at every turn, Santorum — and all of the GOP candidates — should remind voters that, as president, he will fight to preserve Americans’ essential freedoms. Santorum always gets around to that message eventually (as above), but he’s got to lead with it, repeat it and end with it. It’s the only way forward.