Santorum Camp Tries to Capitalize on Gaffe

Santorum team spins gaffe after Romney's weekend win.

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As expected, as soon as the votes were tallied in Puerto Rico Sunday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum attempted to turn the gaffe that cost him there into gain elsewhere.

The former Pennsylvania senator had caused a stir with Puerto Ricans when he said he supported statehood for the region only if English was the official language. GOP front-runner Mitt Romney said he supports statehood without such a restriction.

But Santorum's campaign tried to turn his stumble into support, issuing a statement Sunday congratulating Romney that served more as a backhanded compliment, after Romney trounced Santorum in the primary contest.

[See photos of the 2012 GOP candidates.]

"Rick Santorum has a consistent core and he showed that when he went to Puerto Rico, and took a locally unpopular but principled stance about English being the official language of America," said Hogan Gidley, a Santorum spokesman in the statement. "Mitt Romney on the other hand, switched another one of his positions to gain favor in Puerto Rico, by saying that Puerto Ricans shouldn't have to learn English if they want to become a state."

Steffen Schmidt, political analyst for CNN Español and professor at Iowa State University, predicted last week that Santorum's Spanish stumble would cost him in the island commonwealth, but could prove fodder for conservative Republicans on the mainland.

[Read: Confident Romney Looks to Illinois.]

"With this bunch of politicians that's running this year, I haven't seen a lot of things that look like bad mistakes that end up being shrewd moves," Schmidt said. "But on the other hand, like children and little puppies, God looks out for stupid politicians and it may end up helping Santorum a lot with conservative Republicans who want English as the official language. So in a perverse sort of way, it could end up actually being a plus for him."

Santorum still trails Romney in the delegate race, where 1,144 are necessary to secure the GOP nomination. The candidates are currently campaigning in Illinois and Louisiana, where voters will cast their ballots on Tuesday and Saturday, respectively.

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