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A feisty Santorum likens Romney to Obama

TOPEKA, Kan. -- Hoping to tap into deep distrust of Washington, Republican Rick Santorum suggested Friday that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney share a top priority: to take away Americans' money and freedom so they can tell them how to live.

A day before Kansas Republicans weigh in on the party's presidential contest, Santorum looked to shore up support in this Midwestern state, which seemed ready to give the former Pennsylvania senator yet another win and further challenge Romney's front-runner status. With sharp rhetoric, Santorum likened Romney to Obama and cast both as unacceptable for conservatives.

"We already have one president who doesn't tell the truth to the American people. We don't need another," Santorum said to cheers. "Gov. Romney reinvents himself for whatever the political occasion calls for."

Santorum has hammered Romney for a healthcare overhaul he signed into law as Massachusetts governor. Santorum's advisers see the issue as Romney's biggest weakness among conservatives. They make up the bulk of the Republican Party's nominating base but have so far split their votes between Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"The worst offender is Gov. Romney. He put the template for Obamacare in place in Massachusetts," Santorum said.

Massachusetts requires citizens to buy health insurance. That mandate is central to Democrats' national plan, and Santorum called it unconstitutional.

Campaigning in Alabama, Romney fired back, characterizing Santorum as coming from the Washington establishment he's worked to distance himself from and reminding the former Pennsylvania senator -- and voters -- about a delegate count that puts Romney much closer to the nomination.

"Washington insider Rick Santorum is lashing out at Mitt Romney because he can't accept the fact that it's nearly impossible for him to win the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

Romney has 422 delegates, while Santorum has 181 out of the 1,144 needed. Gingrich trails with 107 and Rep. Ron Paul, R-Lake Jackson, has 46, according to Associated Press calculations.