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Ahead of Wisconsin Primary, Santorum Challenges Romney to One-On-One Debate

AFP/Getty Images(MILWAUKEE, Wisc.) -- Rick Santorum reiterated his challenge to debate Mitt Romney to talk about issues in key primary states Saturday afternoon, pointing to the debates held between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during 2008 when they were the final contenders for the Democratic nomination.

“I've actually asked for debates with Governor Romney, one-on-one debates. This race has clearly gotten down to two candidates that can win the nomination and four years ago, when that happened with Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, there was a series of one-on-one debates. I'd love to have a one-on-one debate,” Santorum told reporters in a media availability following a speech at the Defending the American Dream Summit.

Santorum first said he would like to have a one-on-one debate earlier this month in an interview with Jonathan Karl on This Week.

“I’d love to be able to get one-on-one with Governor Romney and expose the record that would be the weakest record we could possibly put up against Barack Obama,” said Santorum. “We can’t nominate such a weak candidate.”

Campaigning in the state ahead of the April 3rd primary here, Santorum called Wisconsin a “little hybrid of” Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, but wouldn’t acknowledge whether Wisconsin is a “must-win” state for him, instead directing attention to Romney’s win-loss record as he bears the marker of “inevitability.”

“You know what I keep hearing about these must win states for me. How about must win states for Romney,” Santorum said.

Asked if he believes Romney has bypassed him and is focusing his attention on the general election, Santorum argued the cash Romney’s campaign has poured into the state indicates he’s still concerned with the threat Santorum poses against him.

“For someone that says that it’s inevitable, he’s spent a lot of money on inevitability. We’re going to win today, I’m confident of that, we’ll win today in Louisiana,” said Santorum.  “With today, we’re going to win 11 states, 11 states for a guy, who three months ago was sitting at two percent in the polls with, according to the recent numbers, we’re being outspent 55 to 1.  That tells you the weakness of Governor Romney and the strength of our message.”

“The only reason governor Romney is winning this race right now is because he’s just overwhelming with spending, not because he has a message, not because he has a vision, not because he connects with voters.  It’s simply negative ads, beating the other side up in such high numbers that he’s able to squeak out little victories across this country in states that frankly, he should be cleaning, mopping the floor up, given the money he’s spending and the establishment behind him, governors, senators, congressmen, everybody.”

Santorum spoke to a crowd at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Milwaukee Saturday and expressed his solidarity with the state’s governor, Scott Walker, as he’s engaged in battles with unions.

"Look, I come from southwestern Pennsylvania, I grew up in a steel town. I represented one of the most heavy labor districts in the entire country.  It was a 71% Democratic district.  And I know what it's like, you know, to fight the bullies.  And there are no tougher bullies than the public employee unions, and I just want to say to your governor, I am for you, I am behind you, and I'm going to do everything I can."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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