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Rick Santorum delivers serious smackdown on 'Romneycare'

Rick Santorum launched his most cogent attack on Gov. Mitt Romney's health care program in Massachusetts, during Thursday's South Carolina debate.

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Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, at the Jan. 19 debatein Charleston, S.C.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)

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It took 16 debates, but on the 17th night Rick Santorum finally put the conservative case against Mitt Romney (and, to a lesser extent, Newt Gingrich’s) healthcare histories into a complete package.

This argument has two prongs, which Santorum laid out neatly:

Prong 1, on the politics: “And [Romney]’s going to have to run against a president — he’s going to have to run against a president who’s going to say, ‘well, look, look at what you did for Massachusetts, and you’re the one criticizing me for what I’ve done? I used your model for it.’”

Prong 2, on what’s right: “You’re arguing for a plan; you’re defending a plan that is top-down. It is not a free-market health care system. It is not bottom-up. It is prescriptive and government. It was the basis for Obamacare.”

The full transcript follows, with Gov. Romney and Speaker Gingrich’s remarks. Emphasis in bold by DCDecoder.

CNN's JOHN KING: Senator Santorum, you heard Governor Romney and you heard Speaker Gingrich. Do you trust them if one of them is the Republican party’s nominee and potentially the next president of the United States to repeal this?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM (R-PA.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The biggest — the biggest thing we have to do is elect a president. I think Newt’s right. The problem is that two of the people up here would be very difficult to elect on, I think, the most important issue that this country is dealing with right now, which is the robbing of our freedom because of Obamacare.

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