ROCK HILL, S.C. — Stepping up his criticism of Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Friday that Romney is "bland and boring" and comes across too much like voters' bosses to capture the GOP nomination.
While acknowledging that the former Massachusetts governor and wealthy venture capitalist is a strong businessman, Santorum told voters here: "It doesn't necessarily mean that you want your boss running for president, right?"
He followed up in a fundraising email to supporters: "Republicans are again thinking about nominating another bland and boring candidate for president — Mitt Romney."
Santorum, who finished eight votes behind Romney in the first contest in Iowa and placed fifth New Hampshire, is hoping for a come-from-behind win in South Carolina's primary on Jan. 21.
He continued Friday to criticize Romney's record, his proposals and even his talent as a salesman. At a town hall-style meeting, he cited Romney's 59-point economic plan and said: "It is impossible to communicate."
A favorite of social conservatives, Santorum shied away from other candidates' criticism of Romney's time heading Bain Capital, a private equity firm that took over companies and made them profitable — sometimes at the expense of employees. Santorum said he is a fan of capitalism and questioned his rivals for piling on on Romney for his record at Bain.
Santorum said there a lot of other reasons to criticize Romney.
"While he was a successful businessman, he is a Massachusetts moderate to liberal governor who has changed his opinion on just about every issue out there," Santorum said. "He ran as a liberal the first time. He ran as a moderate the second time. He ran as a conservative the third time. It is just a fact."
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, also sharpened his appeal to voters who want, more than anything, to defeat President Barack Obama.
He described Romney as "someone who, I think, has had a difficult time relating to the type of voters we're going to need if we're going to win this election." Romney, at times, appears awkward when interacting with voters.
Romney and others argue that he is best positioned to deny Obama a second term. Santorum said Romney wouldn't take conservative values to Washington. If Romney wins the nomination and gets elected, Santorum said it would be "a victory without any kind of meaning."
"We must stop Romney in South Carolina," he urged supporters in the email. "We must unite and guarantee a conservative standard bearer in 2012."