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Mitt Romney speaks to former Salt Lake City Olympics committee members on Saturday to mark the 10th anniversary of the Games. (Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum courted conservative voters in the U.S. Midwest on Saturday with wide-ranging attacks on President Barack Obama and leadership opponent Mitt Romney.

Obama's agenda is "not about you. It's not about your quality of life. It's not about your jobs. It's about some phoney ideal, some phoney theology — not a theology based on the Bible, a different theology," the former Pennsylvania senator told a Tea Party gathering in Columbus, Ohio.

He offered no details on what he thought that theology might be, though he later tried to clarify his remarks, saying "obviously we all know in the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity. I’m just saying he’s imposing his values on the church and I think that’s wrong."

"If the president says he’s a Christian, he’s a Christian."

An Obama campaign spokesman called Santorum's comment "the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fuelled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity." He said it was "a stark contrast with the president who is focused everyday on creating jobs and restoring economic security for the middle class."

What's next

  • Feb. 28 — Arizona, Michigan
  • March 6 — (Super Tuesday) Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia.

Trailing Romney in money and campaign resources, Santorum is depending on the Tea Party movement and religious groups to deliver a victory in Ohio on March 6, one of Super Tuesday's biggest prizes and a benchmark that often decides which candidates advance to the next level.

And Santorum offered a jaundiced view of one of Romney's most vaunted achievements, his leadership role in rescuing the scandal-threatened 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Delegate totals

  • Mitt Romney — 123
  • Rick Santorum — 72
  • Newt Gingrich — 32
  • Ron Paul — 19
  • Needed to win — 1,144

Santorum said Saturday it's not something his opponent should be proud of.

"One of Mitt Romney's greatest accomplishments — one of the things he talks about most — is how he heroically showed up on the scene and bailed out and resolved the problems of the Salt Lake City Olympic Games," Santorum said Saturday. "He heroically bailed out the Salt Lake City Olympic Games by heroically going to Congress and asking them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the Salt Lake Games — in an earmark, in an earmark for the Salt Lake Olympic Games."

Romney was in Salt Lake City on Saturday night to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Games, and his campaign was quick to point out that Santorum voted for those earmarks, among many others, when he was a senator.

"Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you end up shooting yourself in the foot," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said. "There is a pretty wide gulf between seeking money for post-9/11 security at the Olympics and seeking earmarks for polar bear exhibits at the Pittsburgh Zoo. Mitt Romney wants to ban earmarks. Senator Santorum wants more 'Bridges to Nowhere."'

That's a reference to two proposed bridge projects in sparsely populated areas of Alaska that became a symbol for the proliferation of thousands of earmarks — special projects sought by individual lawmakers — that were part of 2005 transportation legislation.

Federal aid

However, while security costs did increase dramatically after Sept. 11, Romney and his team pushed for federal aid long before the attacks. Romney listed getting more federal dollars as one of the three priorities for his Olympic committee almost as soon as he took the reins in the spring of 1999. "I was going to be spending a lot of time in D.C.," Romney wrote in Turnaround, his book about the Games.

In another development, Romney parted ways on Saturday with his Arizona campaign co-chairman, Pima County Sheriff Paul Babeau, after an alternative weekly magazine reported Babeau had threatened to deport a Mexican immigrant if he revealed they had enjoyed a sexual relationship.

Babeau acknowledged he is gay on Saturday, but denied the allegations of misconduct raised in the news report.

Santorum planned to head to Georgia on Sunday, where Newt Gingrich, who represented the state's 6th congressional district for 20 years, was already campaigning in a bid to reinvigorate his flagging campaign.

"It all hinges on Georgia," Gingrich told an audience in Suwanee, saying victory in the state would serve as a springboard for racking up additional wins across the country. He later clarified his remark, saying he thought he had a good chance to win Georgia though it wouldn't determine the fate of his candidacy. "There are no slam dunk states," Gingrich said.

At a fiery campaign rally in Kansas City, Texas Rep. Ron Paul said the United States is "slipping into a fascist system" dominated by big government and big businesses.

With files from The Associated Press