POLITICS

Romney doesn't rule out Santorum as veep

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

Mitt Romney, whose campaign is preparing a multi-million dollar wave of negative advertising to persuade voters that Rick Santorum should not be president, says he is open to the possibility of choosing Santorum to be his running mate should Romney win the Republican nomination.

Romney appeared on Fox News Wednesday morning and was asked, "You and Rick Santorum, we haven't seen you go head-to-head yet…In the big picture, could you see a scenario where you two team up?"

"Oh, I think it's always possible to have people come together in our party, whether it's Rick and I, or others in the party, who knows?" Romney responded.  "It's a little early to tell something like that, but we have similar views on issues -- very different backgrounds."

Romney's "very different backgrounds" description of Santorum points to an argument Romney plans to use through the February 28 primaries in Michigan and Arizona and on through Super Tuesday on March 6.  Santorum has no executive experience -- "hasn't run anything," Romney will say -- and is not qualified to be president.  Romney, on the other hand, has run private businesses, the 2002 Olympics, and the state government in Massachusetts during his one term as governor.

At the same time, Romney's mention of his and Santorum's "similar views" suggests Romney will try to walk a fine line between trying to discredit Santorum while not alienating voters who don't want to see Santorum targeted by the now-legendary Romney negative ad machine.

Still, Romney bristled a bit when Fox anchors showed him Santorum's new "Rombo" commercial portraying Romney as a ruthless mud-slinger.  "That's the nature of politics, which is that you always accuse the other guy of what you've done yourself," Romney said.  "So my campaign hasn't run any negative ads against Rick Santorum.  His campaign ran attack ads against me in South Carolina, and his PAC did so in Missouri."

"I'm not saying we won't finally go after the guy," Romney concluded, "but frankly, he's been going after me."

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