Santorum spokewoman says he’ll support Romney if nominee … Update: Santorum statement added

posted at 10:25 am on March 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

As walkbacks go, this isn’t exactly … enthusiastic. Will it be enough to get Rick Santorum off the hook?

On CNN’s Starting Point, [Alice] Stewart defended the candidate’s comments Thursday in which he said: “We might as well stay with what we have” in Obama, rather than elect Romney.

“What we have with Mitt Romney is… a mirror image of Barack Obama,” Stewart said. “Both believe in government takeover of health care, cap and trade, big government spending, Wall Street bailout.” …

But later in the show, when pressed on how Santorum could support Romney if he’s saying he’s the same as Obama, Stewart responded:  “Rick has made it abundantly clear once a nominee is chosen he’ll stand behind the nominee and do everything we can to replace Barack Obama.”

Call this one a half-walkback.  Some of Santorum’s defenders claim that he meant that voters would react that way if given a choice between Obama and Romney.  Matt Lewis makes that argument pretty well, but uses the same paragraph I did in the excerpt:

“You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there. If you’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk with what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate of the future,” Santorum told a crowd at USAA.

Well, if Santorum meant that’s what others would think, he certainly didn’t make that explicit in the statement.  It’s an arguable point, but interestingly, not one that Alice Stewart bothered to make on CNN, apparently. They’re still arguing that there isn’t any difference between Romney and Obama, but that Santorum will stick with a Republican rather than a Democrat.  Contrast that with Newt Gingrich’s consistent argument that everyone in the GOP race would be a quantum improvement on Obama, but that he’s more quantum than the rest — a perfectly legitimate argument, even if one doesn’t agree with Gingrich’s self-assessment.

This statement is an improvement over yesterday, but it’s not exactly an apology, either.  (via Keder on Twitter)

Update: Senator Santorum has given Hot Air this statement in response:

“I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous. This is just another attempt by the Romney Campaign to distort and distract the media and voters from the unshakeable fact that many of Romney’s policies mirror Barack Obama’s.  I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney and it’s easy to see why – Romney has sided with Obama on healthcare mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts.  Voters have to be excited enough to actually go vote, and my campaign’s movement to restore freedom is exciting this nation.  If this election is about Obama versus the Obama-Lite candidate, we have a tough time rallying this nation.  It’s time for bold vision, bold reforms and bold contrasts.  This election is about more than Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or Rick Santorum – this campaign is about freedom and I will fight to restore your freedoms.”


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