Santorum accuses Romney, Gingrich of 'playing footsie with left'

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Rick Santorum launched a scathing attack on Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney for "playing footsie with the left" on healthcare, arguing that the leading Republican candidates in South Carolina both lacked credibility on the issue.

"These are two folks who don’t present the clear contrast that I do, who was an author of health savings accounts," Santorum said during Thursday night's debate. "I've been fighting for health reform… for 20 years, while these two guys have been playing footsie with the left."

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Santorum dogged Mitt Romney for his state-run insurance program in Massachusetts, calling the program an "abject failure."

"He stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country," the former Pennsylvania senator said.

"It is an abject disaster, he's standing by it, and he's going to have to run against a president who says… I used your model for it."

Romney defended his record, arguing that his state had particularly high healthcare costs and that his plan was oriented around the free market.

"If you want to go be the governor of Massachusetts, I want to be the president of the United States," Romney said.

Santorum also turned his sights on Newt Gingrich, arguing his prior support for the individual mandate was a campaign liability.

Gingrich said he would be able to neutralize that threat by admitting that he was wrong on the issue. But Santorum argued that the decade that Gingrich held the beliefs would be hard to explain away.

"When he goes and says I can run rings around President Obama, have a Lincoln Douglas debate, you can’t run rings against the fact, though you had that position for 10 or 12 years," Santorum said.