Ron Paul called former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum as a spendthrift with federal money as the Texas congressman began a five-day New Hampshire campaign push he said will highlight his Republican presidential rivals’ backing for “big government.”
Arriving in the state yesterday to try to harness momentum from his close third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses for a strong showing in New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary, Paul criticized Santorum for supporting increased spending on education, a federal prescription drug benefit and legislation to boost the debt limit.
“He talks about being for the Balanced Budget Amendment -- he never did anything about it,” Paul, 76, told reporters in Nashua. “Four or five times he voted to raise the national debt, so that tells you how conservative he is.”
Paul is seeking to hold off a challenge from Santorum, 53, at a time when statewide polls indicate the former senator is rising in popularity just days before votes are cast.
Looking to the next contest in South Carolina, a primary on Jan. 21, Paul’s campaign announced it would run television ads there branding Santorum a “serial hypocrite who can’t be trusted” and charging he has a “record of betrayal” of conservative principles. Paul is airing similar spots in New Hampshire calling front-runner Mitt Romney a “flip-flopper” and reprising his criticism of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich for “serial hypocrisy.”
Paul is trailing Romney by a more than 2-1 margin in a poll released yesterday of likely voters in the New Hampshire primary. Romney, 64, a former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, had 44 percent support compared with 20 percent for Paul in the survey sponsored by WMUR-TV and conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center. Gingrich and Santorum each had 8 percent, and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. had 7 percent in the Jan. 2-5 poll.
“We’re going to emphasize what the opponents believe in, and if they do vote for somebody who has voted for big government, that means they didn’t get enough information,” Paul said. “My job over the next five days is to explain what they have supported in the past.”
Huge crowds cheering raucously for Paul greeted him at a rally where he said his was a campaign on the move.
“Momentum is picking up,” Paul told 700 to 800 people packed into an airplane hangar. “We’re going to do very well on Tuesday.”
He said critics and opponents call him “dangerous,” drawing boos from the crowd, “and in a way we are.”
“They’re in danger of getting routed from the system,” he said to more applause.
Later, speaking to reporters, Paul dismissed yesterday’s U.S. jobs report showing a drop in unemployment. While “it’s good that it’s going in the right direction,” he said, the real numbers, including those who have ceased trying to find a job, are discouraging.
“A little blip -- glad to see it, but boy, I don’t think anybody should be lulled,” Paul said.
He also distanced himself from a television advertisement his backers are running attacking Hunstman, which calls the former ambassador to China someone with “Chinese values.”
“I understand it’s an ugly ad and I’ve disavowed it,” Paul said. “Obviously, it was way out of order.”
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