Inside and outside of Oakland

Romney campaign stops short of predicting victory in Michigan; fires back at critics

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney fired back at Democratic critics Wednesday and went on the offensive against Rick Santorum, his chief Republican challenger for the moment, as the GOP presidential primary calendar moves into Michigan.

Romney supporters held a pair of conference calls.

One took aim at Democrats who blistered him Tuesday for his op-ed piece suggesting auto companies would have been better off with a managed bankruptcy rather than a government bailout.

The second attacked Santorum's record in the U.S. Senate as increasing earmarks and government spending.

"The Democrats fear Romney, and that's why you saw Jennifer Granholm and all these other Democrat surrogates whacking at Mitt. They've been doing that for two months now," Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said.

Schuette is Romney's Michigan campaign chairman.

"The Democrats want to have anybody but Romney 'cuz they know Mitt can win," Schuette said.

Granholm, Michigan's former governor, and other Democrats blasted Romney Tuesday for his op-ed piece in the Detroit News. Granholm, in particular, said Romney would say or do anything to be elected.

Romney's critics Tuesday also included the group Dogs Against Romney, who protested at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York. The group objects that Romney once vacationed with his dog in a crate on the roof of the family car.

"They are not a targeted voting group for us right now," Schuette said, "But I like dogs and Mitt likes dogs so I think we're going to do fine with dog owners.

"I had a dog when I was a kid and so did Romney, so maybe we'll move them into one of those targeted (groups of) voters," he said. "By Feb. 28, there won't be one targeted voter we haven't messaged in one fashion or another."

Romney, 64, is in a four-way race for the Republican nomination to run against President Barack Obama in November.

Also in the race besides Romney and Santorum are former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul from Texas.

Recent polls — and caucus victories — show Santorum surging to even or ahead against Romney in Michigan.

Schuette predicted Romney would "finish strong" in Michigan's Feb. 28 primary but stopped short of predicting a victory.

"I'm very upbeat, I'm enthusiastic where we are," Schuette said. "I'm making no predictions. We're going to have a very strong showing in Michigan, we're going to do very well."

Schuette also took aim at Santorum, noting Romney favors Right to Work laws while Santorum is opposed, and that Romney has said he'd appointed conservative judges to the U.S. Supreme Court while Santorum voted otherwise when he was in the U.S. Senate.

"These issues are not lost on tea party activists, conservative activists, and so I think we'll see a sharpening of the contrasts of Mitt Romney versus any other Republican candidate."

An afternoon conference call held by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Professor Gary Wolfram and state Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, went after Santorum's record in the U.S. Senate. Santorum served two terms.  

Both Santorum and Romney are visible in Michigan this week.

Santorum speaks to the Detroit Economic Club Thursday afternoon and the Oakland County Republican Party Thursday evening.

Romney is the lunchtime guest at the Greater Farmington Chamber of Commerce Thursday. He campaigned in Grand Rapids Wednesday.

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