Nightly News | February 18, 2012
>>> now to the race for the republican nomination and now rick santorum challenging mitt romney to be the undisputed front-runner, both are challenging one another's record and the president's just ten days before the michigan primary . we get our report tonight from nbc's ron mott.
>> thank you very much.
>> reporter: rick santorum took a swipe at the president's energy agenda today and got some heat in exchange.
>> it's not about you. it's not about you. it's not about your quality of life . it's not about your jobs. it's about some phony ideal, some phony theology. oh, not a theology based on the bible. a different theology. but no less a theology.
>> reporter: the obama re- election campaign quickly fired back, calling it quote, just the latest low in a republican campaign that has been fuelled by distortions, ugliness and searing pessimism and negativity. santorum and romney are grappling with each other over who gave out money.
>> he bailed out the salt lake city olympic games by going to congress to ask them for tens of millions of dollars to bail out the salt lake city olympic games .
>> reporter: something the democratic national committee has also weaponized in a new ad.
>> that bill to american taxpayers is estimated to be $1.3 billion. that's outrageous.
>> reporter: today, in ohio --
>> will you join me? i'll take that as a yes.
>> reporter: a hometown welcome for the former pennsylvania senator as he swung back at charges by the romney campaign that he was a big-time spender for abused earmarks.
>> rick santorum supported billions in earmarks.
>> the focus is millions of dollars in ad campaigns against santorum . and romney sought to slow santorum 's surge in the polls.
>> i hope people look at his record. he voted for billions of dollars of earmarks. if you want a fiscal conservative , you can't vote for rick santorum because he's not.
>> reporter: newt gingrich weighed in on all this negativity today while campaigning down in georgia. he says mitt romney had gone on the attack against rick santorum in michigan much like he did against gingrich in florida saying it is an unworthy way for someone to become president of the u.s.