Obama targets Santorum to confuse Republicans

As former senator surges ahead of Mitt Romney, President's aides question his 'divisive' policies

After months of throwing rotten tomatoes from afar at Mitt Romney, the political aides behind Barack Obama's re-election campaign are giving some of the same treatment to Rick Santorum.

Like everyone, Team Obama is assessing quite how seriously it should be taking Mr Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator whose recent sweep of three states in the Republican nomination race punctured Mr Romney's front-runner status. Latest polls suggest that Mr Santorum could also win the next ballots in Michigan and Ohio.

David Axelrod, a former White House political aide who now advises the Obama campaign, told CBS News that voters would hesitate when they looked at Mr Santorum's "divisive" positions on social issues as well as his economic platform. "I don't think the average working person in this economy is going to look at his economic policies and say, 'Yeah, that's the ticket for me'," he said.

Mr Obama's campaign has emailed Democratic Party supporters in Pennsylvania soliciting memories of what Mr Santorum was like before he left the Senate in 2006. "Pennsylvanians who know what Rick Santorum is all about have an important story to tell folks in the other 49 states," the email said. "Tell us what you most want the rest of the country to know about Rick Santorum."

The nomination race is more muddled than ever. Mr Romney, 64, still has daunting spending and organisational advantages. Yet an average of the latest polls in his home state of Michigan, which votes on 28 February and really should be in Mr Romney's pocket, gave Mr Santorum, 53, an eight-point lead. And as he continued campaigning across Michigan yesterday, another poll suggested that he would trounce Mr Romney in Ohio by 18 points on 6 March.

Complicating the picture further is Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker. His exit from the race would give Mr Santorum a huge boost because he would be the only remaining conservative alternative to Mr Romney. But sources said last night that a casino tycoon, Sheldon Adelson, was poised to give another $10m to the super-political action committee supporting Mr Gingrich – plenty to keep him in the contest.

Team Obama's motives for starting to attack Mr Santorum are less obvious than they may seem. They love the fact he is surging in the polls: it lengthens the agony of Republicans as they try to agree on a candidate. And if Mr Santorum can make it all the way and snatch the crown from Mr Romney, they think that of the two he is far more beatable.

"They would love to have Santorum as their opponent, believe me, and they are trying to give him some juice," said Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia. "I am certain of it. They want to keep the Republican campaign going for as long as they can."

Sport
Romelu Lukaku
sportChelsea striker sends second teasing tweet of the day
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Sport
Japanese referee Yuichi Nishimura sprays a line after calling for a free kick for Brazil
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Tax Solicitor

£40000 - £70000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Tax Solicitor An excel...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exce...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz