During an interview Sunday, Santorum called Obama "a snob" for saying every American child should be able to go to college. The comment stoked the contempt grassroots conservative voters express about the Obama administration.
"Santorum really picked a smart fight with the president, a cultural fight, over the weekend," said Stu Sandler, a veteran Republican campaign operative in Michigan. "You can argue about the effects overall, but when the media and the president jump on a GOP candidate, the base will react."
But it also threw Santorum off message.
So did Romney's attacks on Santorum's conservative bona fides. Santorum spent the first 15 minutes of a speech in Flint Sunday night blasting Romney as a false conservative. "To be attacked on television as someone who is not an authentic conservative by a Massachusetts governor is a joke," Santorum said Monday in Lansing.
In the closing days, Santorum criticized Romney's tax proposal as weak and promoted his own plan to spark manufacturing.
But he tripped again Monday, when it was revealed that Santorum's campaign was courting Democratic votes via automated telephone calls.
Santorum defended the calls, saying, "We're going to get voters that we need to be able to win this election."
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