Report claims Santorum used Senate contacts to earn $1m

 

The heat in winter in New Hampshire is set to rise sharply for the front-runners in the race for the Republican presidential nomination with Rick Santorum facing charges that he has used Capitol Hill contacts to turn himself into a millionaire and Mitt Romney bracing for a barrage of attacks in two television debates today and tomorrow.

With only four days until the New Hampshire primary, a new poll showed Mr Romney still leading the pack with 40 per cent of the vote. After his success in Iowa, Mr Santorum, a social conservative, saw a big surge in his support to 11 per cent. The Suffolk University poll gave second place to isolationist libertarian Ron Paul with 17 per cent.

If New Hampshire Republicans are warming to Mr Santorum – before Iowa he was registering only 3 per cent in the state – they are also being exposed to media reports that appear to peel off the humble-origins veneer that he likes to sport on the trail. Among them was a New York Times exposé detailing how as a US senator he helped forge laws to benefit large interests in healthcare and energy which he would later work for after losing his seat in 2006.

"By the time his Senate career drew to a close, he had become an emblem for some of a pay-to-play culture on Capitol Hill," the newspaper asserted, noting that financial disclosure forms filed last summer showed him earning over $1m (£640,000) in the previous 18 months thanks to various jobs, including being a commentator on Fox News.

Mr Santorum was booed on Thursday night at a college event when asked to explain his opposition to gay marriage, underscoring the danger his strongly conservative social policy view present for him in a state that is more liberal-minded than Iowa.

It is Mr Romney who is likely to get scorched at the debates, however. Newt Gingrich, who is struggling to single himself out as the best conservative alternative, has warned that he will pull no punches. Also under pressure to rise from the ranks is Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor, who yesterday basked in the endorsement of The Boston Globe. "They understood the vision that I'm bringing around for America about nailing the economic deficit," Mr Huntsman noted yesterday.

A top Santorum aide tried meanwhile to push back at the New York Times. "He's done a lot of things that have helped a lot of companies and a lot of individuals," John Brabender told the newspaper.

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