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New Santorum ad links Romney to Obama on healthcare, bailouts

Rick Santorum is going hard after Mitt Romney in a new Web advertisement, directly tying the former Massachusetts governor’s policies to those of President Obama.

“What if I told you this man’s government-mandated healthcare included $50 abortions and killed thousands of jobs? Would you ever vote for him?” the narrator says, while standing in front of a picture of Obama.

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“What if I told you he supported radical environmental job-killing cap-and-trade and the Wall Street bailouts? And what if I told you he dramatically raised taxes and stuck taxpayers with a $1 billion shortfall?” the spokeswoman continues. “One more thing. What if I told you the man I’m talking about isn’t him?”

The picture of Obama then morphs into a picture of Romney.

“It’s him,” the woman concludes.

The ad is in line with Santorum’s argument that Romney doesn’t draw a clear enough distinction between the president’s policies and those of the GOP. In recent weeks, Santorum has called Romney “the worst candidate” to go up against Obama on healthcare, which will likely be a critical issue in the general election.

As governor of Massachusetts, Romney instituted reforms that many conservatives allege served as the blueprint for the Obama administration’s healthcare law.

“Rick Santorum is attacking pollsters, attacking reporters and attacking Mitt Romney," said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. "It is sad to see him completely lose his bearings and revert to patently false claims. Senator Santorum is at a point of desperation that he will say or do anything. It is pretty clear that he is lashing out at everyone around him in order to prop up his sinking campaign.”

Santorum has his work cut out ahead of Tuesday’s primary contests, and the Wisconsin primary in particular will be critical for his campaign on a number of fronts.

There are 42 delegates at stake in the winner-take-all contest, and Romney is likely to sweep Tuesday’s other primaries in Maryland, as Romney has excelled in the Northeast, and in Washington, D.C., where Santorum failed to make the ballot.

Romney leads by 7 percent in Wisconsin, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls.

With Romney already holding a more than two-to-one lead in delegates, and leading by double digits in most national polls, Santorum needs to quickly mount a momentous comeback if he hopes to prevent the narrative that Romney is the party’s inevitable nominee.

A victory for Santorum in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin would be a good start, as the former Pennsylvania senator has touted his ability to connect with blue-collar voters. However, Santorum has so far been unable to close the deal in the region, falling just short of Romney in Michigan and Ohio.

- This post was updated at 11:35 a.m.

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