Sen. Inhofe says Santorum has 'better' record on defense, economy, energy

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Inhofe's comments come the Monday after he introduced the former Pennsylvania senator at the Conservative Political Action Conference, where he called Santorum "the real deal."

"I know his heart," Inhofe said at the conference. "I probably know Rick Santorum better than anyone in this audience."

Inhofe, who previously backed Rick Perry, has repeatedly praised Santorum, but said he was also unlikely to formally make another presidential endorsement.

Still, Santorum seems to be winning the praise of some major Republican icons. On Monday the National Review magazine called on Newt Gingrich to drop out of the presidential race so the field would effectively be Santorum and Mitt Romney. Both Inhofe's praise and National Review's comments are new for Santorum, who has thus far mainly won the backing of high-profile figures among the religious right, but not that of more mainstream Republicans — a group Romney has dominated.

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