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Rick Santorum's endorsement regret: Why he backed Romney in '08

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(Read caption) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum campaigns at The Hotel Pattee in Perry, Iowa, January 2, 2012.

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Rick Santorum may be emerging as one of Mitt Romney's toughest rivals in Iowa, but back in 2008, he was something else: a supporter.

The former Pennsylvania Senator has been getting flak lately for his 2008 endorsement of Mr. Romney.

"Governor Romney is the candidate who will stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear," he said in a press release when he announced his endorsement four years ago. And he told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham that conservatives are "about traditional values and a traditional way of American life" and that Mitt Romney "understands that, it's not just in his head anymore, it's in his heart."

These are statements that are coming back to haunt Mr. Santorum now, as he tries to convince Republican voters that Romney isn't a true conservative – and that he, himself, is the only candidate who supports the social issues they care about.

When asked to explain the endorsement, the best response Santorum can offer is: It was politics. Essentially, his argument goes, he wanted anyone but John McCain to get the nomination. (The idea is, of course, analogous to many conservatives' attitude toward Romney today.) He didn't think Mike Huckabee could win it, and the only other alternative was Romney.

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