Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich Clash Over Earmarks at Arizona CNN GOP Debate [Video Highlight]

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney got after each other on earmarks. From a structural position, Romney had an advantage because he has never been in Washington and thus was able to distance himself from the entire process. Anyone who has been to Washington knows that debates about budget games will come to nothing, but Romney was able to comfortably act like he would have nothing to do with them. 

Santorum tried to frame the earmark dispute as one about legislators using them to correct poor executive choices (when they don't have that essential function at all). His example was the Osprey VTOL program, but Romney countered by saying that Santorum also voted for the bridge to nowhere. 

Romney then defended his actions as an advocate for earmarks for the Olympics and as a parting shot, said that "but while I was fighting to save the Olympics, you [Santorum] were fighting to save the bridge to nowhere." Cue applause. 

Next, Romney gets double-teamed by both Santorum and Gingrich, both telling him that he's wrong, but he gets the last applause line by getting Santorum to admit that the president cannot veto spending provisions attached to a bill individually. It wasn't clear why the crowd loved that line, but Romney smiled quietly, happy that he extricated himself from the criticisms of Santorum and Gingrich. 

Photo Credit: Talk Radio News Service