Obama Campaign Targets Santorum

Santorum's surge has Obama campaign officials taking notice.

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President Obama's re-election campaign is now focusing more intensely on Rick Santorum in addition to Mitt Romney as a potential Republican presidential nominee.

This morning, the Obama team hit both rivals on the issues of taxes and deficit reduction. "Governor Mitt Romney and Senator Rick Santorum claim they will champion spending cuts deep enough to cut taxes and balance the budget," wrote Obama policy director James Kvaal in a memo to reporters and other "interested parties." "In fact, they have both proposed irresponsible and reckless tax plans that would drive up the deficit by trillions of dollars, while their claims to balance the budget through spending cuts are competely unrealistic."

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Santorum's comments over the weekend about Obama's values also brought a swift and harsh reply from the president's campaign. The former Pennsylvania senator, a Roman Catholic, said Obama is using "some phony theology...not a theology based on the Bible" to push his views on the American people. This was an apparent reference to the administration's attempt to require hospitals and other organizations affiliated with the Catholic Church to dispense birth-control services in violation of Catholic teachings. A spokesman for the Obama campaign condemned Santorum's remarks as examples of the GOP's overall "distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity."

Senior advisers to Obama's campaign, which is based in his hometown of Chicago, say they are stepping up their opposition research on Santorum because he is surging to the top of the GOP presidential field after winning nominating contests in Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri earlier this month.

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Democratic strategists say Santorum is a far-right ideologue who as the Republican nominee would alienate everyday Americans, especially less-conservative voters and moderate women voters, once they understand the nature of his views.

One area where the Democrats think Santorum might make headway, however, is his appeal to white working-class people who have been hit hard by the economic downturn. This means more scrutiny of Santorum by the Democrats. "Circumstances have changed," Obama deputy campaign manger Stephanie Cutter told the Washington Post.

Among the potential attack points to be used by the Democrats against Santorum if he continues to surge: his conservative views on social issues such as his opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest; his opposition to the Obama attempt to require religious institutions to offer contraceptives as part of their health care plans; his opposition to the federal bailout of the auto industry; his support for revoking various regulations on Wall Street, and his support for continued tax breaks for the rich and big corporations.

  • Obama's War on Religion Will Unite His GOP Opposition.
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  • Mitt Romney's Michigan Plight.