Santorum: Obama comment an attempt to highlight Romney 'enthusiasm gap'

Rick Santorum explained a recent suggestion — that voting for President Obama would be preferable to voting for Mitt Romney — as simply an attempt to highlight "a huge enthusiasm gap around" the former Massachusetts governor.

"I would never vote for Barack Obama over any Republican and to suggest otherwise is preposterous," Santorum said in a statement on Friday. "I was simply making the point that there is a huge enthusiasm gap around Mitt Romney and it's easy to see why — Romney has sided with Obama on healthcare mandates, cap-and-trade, and the Wall Street bailouts." 

Santorum's statement came a day after he suggested that it might be preferable to voting for Obama instead of Romney in the general election.

"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 Thursday during an event in Texas.

The former Pennsylvania senator alluded to a comment made by a top Romney adviser that Romney might completely change his positions in a general election, wiping away past positions like one starts over a drawing on an Etch A Sketch.

"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.

Since Santorum made the comment, he's received stark criticism from his opponents as well as some backers. Ed Morrissey, who blogs for HotAir.com and is one of Santorum's most prominent backers on the Internet, said he expected Santorum to apologize for the remarks he made on Thursday.

"It seems that Senator Santorum has forgotten the purpose of the Republican primary. It’s to choose the most successful candidate to beat Obama in the general election. It isn’t to test a few candidates to see whether the goal of beating Obama is worth the bother," Morrissey wrote. "I expect Senator Santorum to have recovered his sense of reality and apologize for that statement by that time. If not, I may end up arguing for another candidate when we meet to discuss the next phase at our Republican caucus."

On CNN Friday morning, Santorum press secretary Alice Stewart said the senator's comments were in reference to voters who couldn't differentiate between Obama and Santorum.

Stewart said that Santorum would back whoever the Republican nominee is.

"Rick has made it abundantly clear that once the nominee is chosen he will stand behind the nominee and do everything we can to replace Barack Obama," she said.

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