Santorum blasted for suggesting Obama preferable to Romney

Rick Santorum suggested Thursday that Republicans would be taking such a risk with Mitt Romney's "Etch A Sketch" shifts on core principles that they should instead reelect President Obama, drawing immediate criticism from his GOP rivals.

"You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there," Santorum said while campaigning in Texas. 

“If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future,” Santorum said.

The Etch A Sketch reference was a nod to Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom's suggestion Wednesday that "everything changes" during the general election, a comment some interpreted as indicating Romney would pivot away from some conservative policy positions.

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“It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch,” Fehrnstrom said on CNN. “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

The Romney campaign immediately pounced on the gaffe, blasting Santorum for putting his own presidential aspirations above the success of the Republican Party.

“I am in this race to defeat Barack Obama and restore America’s promise. I was disappointed to hear that Rick Santorum would rather have Barack Obama as president than a Republican. This election is more important than any one person. It is about the future of America. Any of the Republicans running would be better than President Obama and his record of failure," Romney said in a statement.

Newt Gingrich also criticized Santorum, tweeting that the ex-senator was "dead wrong."

"Any GOP nominee will be better than Obama," Gingrich wrote.

Both Santorum and Gingrich have used the Etch A Sketch comment to mock Romney on the campaign trail, handing out the toy at campaign stops and arguing their policies were instead "etched in stone."

"[Romney] didn’t say, ‘I am a conservative.’ He said, ‘I’m going to run as a conservative.’ So what do you do, you just sort of decide what you’re going to be for the elections?” Santorum asked. “No one can accuse me of that. People say, ‘Well, you can’t win because of that.’ No, I will win because of it," Santorum said in Texas, according to CBS News.

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