Santorum, a former senator, was the debate's aggressor on federal bailouts — a key issue in Michigan, where the U.S. auto industry is based. GM and Chrysler have since recovered after taking massive bailouts, forcing Romney to explain a 2008 editorial provocatively headlined, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."
While Santorum opposed the auto bailouts, he tried to exploit his rival's position by saying that unlike Romney, he took a consistent stand when he also opposed the federal bank bailouts after the economy collapsed.
"With respect to Governor Romney that was not the case, he supported the folks on Wall Street and bailed out Wall Street — was all for it — and when it came to the auto workers and the folks in Detroit, he said no," Santorum said. "That to me is not a principled consistent position."
Santorum, though, was called a "fake" conservative by Texas Rep. Ron Paul for voting for federal programs that he now says he wants to repeal. Santorum was booed by the audience for his explanation of why he voted several years ago for the massive federal education reform bill known as No Child Left Behind, even though he had opposed it.
"Look, politics is a team sport, folks," he said of the measure backed by Republican President George W. Bush and other Republicans.