PHOENIX, ARIZ. — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Tuesday dismissed claims that he spent years operating as a Washington insider, touting his authenticity in a veiled jab at rival Mitt Romney.
“I’m not a manager, I’m not a visionary; I’m a guy from a steel town,” Santorum said at the Maricopa County GOP Lincoln Day lunch, drawing a parallel with the former Massachusetts business executive.
Santorum said that he was “getting things done” in Congress while others were “losing elections.”
Santorum’s rise in the polls has come as GOP primary voters warmed to his working-class background and refusal to compromise on social issues that play well with the most conservative elements of the party. Meanwhile, Romney, despite having massive fundraising and organizational advantages, has been unable to close the deal with primary voters who question his commitment to conservative principles.
In recent days, Romney has pummeled the former Pennsylvania senator for a long history of seeking federal pork barrel funding, voting to raise the nation's debt ceiling and other legislative actions considered toxic among Republican voters today.
Though Romney remains the strong favorite to win Arizona, Santorum has clawed within striking distance — around 5 percentage points in recent surveys — just one week before the state’s primary.
The duo will take center stage on Wednesday night at a Republican debate in Mesa, where Santorum will certainly receive more attention amid his recent surge.