Rick Santorum: Barack Obama's New Best Friend

When it comes to attacking Mitt Romney, Santorum seems to be reading from the same playbook as the Obama re-election campaign.

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Reuters

Is Rick Santorum doing David Axelrod's dirty work for him?

Of course not -- Santorum's goal is to unseat President Obama, and he remains convinced he's the best Republican candidate to do the job.

But the GOP presidential contender has seemed to read from the Obama adviser's playbook of late, repeating a spate of criticisms aimed at Mitt Romney that bear a striking resemblance to attacks conceived in the White House. And even if Axelrod and other Obama allies didn't write the material themselves, they will still benefit from it.

Take, for example, Santorum's critique of Romney on Monday.

"This is someone who doesn't have a core," he said on CBS's This Morning. "He's been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past 10 years."

That should sound familiar.

"When it comes to his public character, he doesn't have a core," David Axelrod told Meet the Press in December.

The two camps overlapped again on a far more personal issue for Romney -- a decades-old story about the former governor putting his family's dog in a crate on top of his car for a long trip. The Obama White House has been far quieter on this issue, but Axelrod landed a not-so-subtle jab in January when he tweeted a picture of the president and his dog, Bo.

"How loving owners transport their dogs," he wrote.

The Santorum campaign has piggybacked off that line of attack in earnest. John Brabender, Santorum's political guru, mentioned the dog story during multiple interviews last week.

"I sit there like every other American and say, 'What the heck was he thinking, putting the dog on the top of the roof?'" he said during a Thursday interview on MSNBC. (Santorum spokeswoman Alice Stewart reiterated the criticism on Monday.)

Most recently, the Santorum campaign has even begun attacking Romney on his time at Bain Capital, an issue they had previously held at arm's length. It's an issue that, even more than the White House, Newt Gingrich has used as a cudgel against the GOP front-runner, but it does reiterate a previous attack from the administration.

What to make of the similarities? It's hardly surprising that Santorum and Obama's criticism of Romney would merge, particularly about the onetime Bay State governor's past political flip-flops. You don't need to be a political savant to identify that as vulnerability for Romney.

But it's a fair bet if Obama wants to repeat the attacks in the fall, all he'll need to do is dig up old clips from Santorum.

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Alex Roarty is a politics writer for National Journal.

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