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Santorum, Romney Spar Over Economy Ahead Of Michigan Primary

A day before Michigan's Republican presidential primary, Rick Santorum tried to outflank Mitt Romney on a fairly sensitive issue in Detroit: government bailouts.

Santorum blasted Romney for supporting the government's Wall Street bailout while loudly opposing its bailout of the auto industry.

Santorum, for his part, opposed both instances of government intervention in the private sector.

"Why are we giving away government's role in bailing out companies?" asked Santorum, campaigning outside Detroit, reports NPR's Sonari Glinton. "I know that's not a popular topic here in Detroit, but at least I'm consistent."

"Capitalism is painful," Santorum said. "We all know that. Markets are painful sometimes. When people don't keep up and people do things that the market doesn't like, a lot of people suffer. But they suffer more if we try to rig the game."

Romney began his day in the town of Rockford, just outside Grand Rapids, and NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that at this event — as in every other across the state — the Detroit-born Romney relentlessly hammered the native-son narrative, telling the crowd he enjoyed seeing "familiar places and familiar people."

At least one undecided voter in the audience, Ed Garcia, found the argument unpersuasive, telling NPR: "If he would have cared so much about Michigan, he would have run for governor of Michigan instead of Massachusetts."

But Romney's local roots, with his father having served as Michigan's governor, make a difference for other voters.

"It affects it a little bit," said Steve Batchelder. "I would certainly vote for Romney because I live in Michigan."

Romney also took his shots at Santorum, contrasting his business experience to Santorum's. Polls show the two in a very tight race in the state.

"I've spent 25 years in business. I understand why jobs go, why they come," said Romney.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul also was in the state, with events scheduled in Detroit, East Lansing and Dearborn.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was campaigning in Tennessee, which holds its GOP primary March 6.

None of the candidates scheduled time in Arizona a day before that state also holds its Republican presidential primary. Polls have shown Romney with a strong lead in the state.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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