Mitt Romney On Rick Santorum: 'I Wonder Which Team He Was Taking It For'

PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Mitt Romney mocked Rick Santorum's debate performance during a speech here on Thursday, saying the former Pennsylvania senator spent most of the night before trying to explain away votes he has made in favor of things he says he opposes.

"He talked about this as 'taking one for the team,'" Romney said to laughs from the crowd at the Associated Builders and Contractors National Meeting. "I wonder which team he was taking it for. My team is the American people, not the insiders in Washington."

Most of Romney's speech was devoted to bashing unions, a popular topic with the conservative business group. He mentioned Santorum's votes against the repeal of right-to-work laws, and in favor of raising the debt ceiling and the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires the federal government to pay prevailing wages for public works projects.

"I don't know if I've ever heard a politician explain in so many ways why he voted against his principles," Romney said.

Santorum spent much of the CNN debate Wednesday on the defense as former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, aided by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), repeatedly threw jabs his way.

"He calls it a team sport," Paul said of Santorum's insistence that he needed to vote "yes" at times as a senator to help the party. "He has to go along to get along and that's the way the team plays. But that's what the problem is with Washington. That's what's been going on for so long."

Still, most of Romney's criticism on Thursday was saved for President Barack Obama, whom he also said cares more about insiders, specifically union bosses, than the interests of the people.

"We're going to have to change that policy and make sure that instead of having a president that bows to special interests, in this case union interests, we have a president that bows to the interests of the American people," Romney said.

Romney pointed out a few times during the speech that he vetoed a card-check bill as governor, killing the state legislature-approved bill to help organize unions. Romney said he would end secret ballots in the union process and right-to-work laws, receiving cheers for his statement that he would end the government's preference towards unions when making contracts.

"In this country we would be free to pursue happiness as we choose," Romney said of the origins of the U.S. "We would not even be told we had to join a union against our will. We could pursue happiness as we choose."