WOODLAND PARK, Colo. — Sharpening his criticism, Rick Santorum on Wednesday laid into Mitt Romney's healthcare overhaul in Massachusetts and Newt Gingrich's shifting policy positions as he sought to deny either rival the Republican presidential nomination.
Santorum, looking to find footing ahead of Saturday's caucuses in Nevada and Tuesday's primary in Colorado, told supporters in a freshly polished campaign speech that Republicans would guarantee President Barack Obama a second term if Romney or Gingrich were to win the nomination. Signaling he was unwilling to exit the race and help either rival rise, Santorum said he would push on all the way to the Republican convention, if necessary.
"I'm in this race until the very end," he said to boisterous cheers during a speech that his advisers cast as a major address, but offered little new. "I'm going to stay in this until the very end."
With fresh frustration following Tuesday's loss in Florida, the former Pennsylvania senator said neither Gingrich nor Romney were bets Republicans could risk.
"There were people in our party who flirted with Obamacare," Santorum said. "Romneycare, Obamacare, all these plans, they don't care."
He noted the healthcare legislation Romney signed into law was a model for Democrats' national plan and Gingrich previously supported its centerpiece — a requirement that everyone buy health insurance. While his arguments are familiar, Santorum sharpened his attacks after three consecutive losses in the nominating process.
"Barack Obama, in a debate or in this election, is going to destroy Mitt Romney on the issue of healthcare," Santorum warned.
"Gov. Romney is for Romneycare. Just not at the federal level. Who cares?" he said.
And he said Gingrich is "running around" taking credit for Republican accomplishments during his term as speaker.
"He's like the CEO of the company taking credit for making the car," Santorum mocked.
Yet Santorum is looking at some tough times ahead. He only recently opened political operations in Nevada, which he visited for his first campaign events on Tuesday and planned to return on Thursday. The organization-intensive caucuses are Saturday. Romney handily won them four years ago, and he didn't disengage from the state.
Next up is Colorado, where Santorum is campaigning hard while trying to scramble a traditional campaign.
That means a strategy shift toward sharp attacks in the hopes of wounding his rivals. He's shuttling between the upcoming states, hoping the criticism proves to shake the ground.
Minnesota and Missouri have their contests Tuesday. Gingrich is not on Missouri's nonbinding primary ballot. Santorum's advisers were hoping the attacks on Romney in recent days could yield a surprise showing there — and perhaps give the Santorum campaign a shot of enthusiasm.
But Santorum faces challenges of his own as a candidate. During a question-and-answer session in the mountains of Woodland Park, he found himself defending drug companies to a mother and son who asked Santorum about the high costs of medicine. Santorum said markets would solve the problems, despite the woman's repeated and frustrated pleas to help her pay the thousands of dollars each month for her son's prescriptions.
Meanwhile, Santorum's 3-year-old daughter, Bella, remained in a Philadelphia hospital undergoing treatment for complications of a genetic disorder. He said many experts describe the condition "as incompatible with life."
"If things work out, she'll be home either today or first thing tomorrow morning," he said after he spoke with his wife by phone before speaking at Colorado Christian University. "Thank you for all those prayers."
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