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Santorum woos tea party in Ohio

Lashing out on two fronts, Rick Santorum on Saturday questioned President Obama's Christian values and attacked GOP rival Mitt Romney's Olympics leadership as he courted tea party activists and evangelical voters in Ohio, "ground zero" in the 2012 nomination fight.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator known for his social conservative views, said Obama's agenda is based on "some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology." He later suggested that the president practices a different kind of Christianity.

"In the Christian church there are a lot of different stripes of Christianity," he said. "If the president says he's a Christian, he's a Christian."

The Obama campaign said the comments represent "the latest low in a Republican primary campaign that has been fueled by distortions, ugliness, and searing pessimism and negativity."

Trailing Romney in money and campaign resources, Santorum is depending on the tea party movement and religious groups to deliver a victory March 6 in the Midwestern contest.

More delegates will be awarded in Ohio than in any other state except Georgia in the opening months of the Republican campaign. Ohio and Georgia are two of the 10 contests scheduled for March 6, a benchmark for the primary campaign that often decides who can continue to the next level.

Santorum has surged in recent opinion polls after capturing Republican caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a non-binding primary in Missouri on Feb. 7. Several polls have shown him ahead in Romney's native state of Michigan, where primary voters cast ballots a week from Tuesday.

Even as he criticized Obama, Santorum also went after one of Romney's most promoted achievements -- his leadership at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"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. "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."

The Romney campaign doesn't dispute that congressional earmarks helped save the Games. But they noted that Santorum voted for those earmarks, among many others. "Sometimes when you shoot from the hip, you end up shooting yourself in the foot," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.