Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee who is now a Tea Party activist and frequent commentator on Fox News, said on "Fox News Sunday" she wants to see a Republican candidate "whom we can trust will just inherently, instinctively turn right, always err on the side of conservatism." She said she's not convinced Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and corporate executive, has proven he's that candidate, though she believes his conservatism is evolving.
"I am not convinced and I don't think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced. And that is why you don't see Romney get over the hump. He's still in the 30 percentile mark when it comes to approval and primary wins and caucus wins. He still hasn't risen above that yet because we are not convinced," Palin said.
Political experts on NBC's "Meet the Press" said Romney's refusal to take a strong conservative stance on social issues has helped Santorum's campaign.
"You had the Planned Parenthood dust up, and then you had the [Health and Human Services birth control] decision exploding, then you had the Ninth Circuit deciding to overturn the constitutional amendment out in California, 14 million voted on that, all of that lined up badly for the president, but much worse for Mitt Romney who doesn't want to talk about social issues," said Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "And now they are front and center and Rick Santorum is the big winner."
"Washington Post" columnist E.J. Dionne agreed, saying Romney has too often been on both sides of important social issues.
"Whether you like or dislike Rick Santorum, you know what Rick Santorum stands for and that helps him," Dionne said on "Meet the Press."
Republican rivals former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also questioned Romney's conservatism in separate interviews Sunday, though Paul took it a step further, accusing all three of his competitors of being too liberal, including Newt Gingrich, a the former House speaker from Georgia.
"But I think that all of them are rather typical of what's wrong with the country, that they -- that they don't have firm convictions," Paul said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"I think [Romney is] conservative in some ways, but I think he's every bit as conservative as the other two. That's my point. You know, I don't think he's less conservative."
Meanwhile, Santorum, on ABC's "This Week," argued Romney, if given the Republican nomination, will not be able to beat Democratic President Barack Obama based on money alone.
"Well, of course, in the fall, he's not going to have the most money. And he's been able to win in these early primary states by, you know, beating the tar out of his opponents by four- and five- to-one on television. Well, that's not going to be the case," Santorum said.
"The person who's going to be the best opportunity to beat Barack Obama is someone who's got the best record, someone who has the best plan, and someone who can make Barack Obama the issue in this election and his failed policies, everything from foreign policy to what he's done to this economy."
Santorum, on CNN's "State of the Union," said he wants to make "sure that folks know we're the best alternative to Barack Obama and we have the best chance of beating him" He added he considers the Republican nomination race to be a "two-person race right now," between him and Romney.
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