Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) was challenged on multiple pieces of his record at last night’s CNN Republican presidential debate in Arizona, but his answer to why he voted for No Child Left Behind, the comprehensive education reform bill signed by President George W. Bush, drew the most criticism. “I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake,” Santorum said.
On the campaign trail today, Romney immediately seized on Santorum’s “take one for the team” apology:
ROMNEY: He talked of this of being ‘taking for one the team.’ I wonder which team he was taking it for. My team is the American people, not the insiders in Washington, and I’ll fight for the people of America, not special interests. … He talked about voting for No Child Left Behind, even though that was against his principles.
While slamming Santorum as a “Washington insider,” Romney conveniently neglected to mention his own support for the law, which he highlighted as an example of where he disagrees with many conservatives in a 2008 interview on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes:
ROMNEY: I’d say that not all conserves line up with me on a few of the positions I have. For instance, I support having a Department of Education. I support No Child Left Behind. I think it’s improving our schools. I agree that we need to give more flexibility to states in applying it, but I support it.
As opposed to other issues, Romney’s position on education has remained fairly consistent. He’s been a vocal proponent of school testing while on the campaign trail and passed up an opportunity to criticize Santorum last night, saying Bush “was right to fight” against teachers unions to pass No Child Left Behind, even if some changes now need to be made to it.
But with conservatives criticizing Santorum’s answer today, Romney has apparently decided to pile on, ignoring that he’s criticizing Santorum’s support for a law he also supports.