In a tight race to win the Michigan primary, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney strongly defended his wealth on Sunday and challenged voters to support someone else if they did not like his success.
Questions about Romney's high earnings and taxes have dogged him throughout the primary elections and came up again in the run-up to Tuesday's vote in Michigan, where main rival Rick Santorum has presented himself as a blue-collar Republican.
Worth an estimated $250 million, Romney has been accused of being out of touch with most Americans' economic struggles and did himself no favors in Michigan on Friday when he said his wife drives "a couple of Cadillacs."
"I'm not perfect. I just am who I am," Romney said on "Fox News Sunday," when asked about the comment, in a Rust Belt state where unemployment is high.
"We have a car that we have in California. And we got a car that we have back in Boston, where our other home is. That's just the way it is," the former private equity executive said.
"If people think there's something wrong with being successful in America, then they better vote for the other guy. Because I've been extraordinarily successful, and I want to use that success and that know-how to help the American people."
Romney tried to draw a connection with blue-collar America by showing up at the Daytona 500 car race in Florida.
"This is kind of a fun thing for me to do," Romney told Sirius XM's NASCAR radio.
Just as Romney strolled out onto the track for photos and handshakes, the number 26 car, emblazoned with 'Santorum 2012' moved slowly past him into the pit lane.
Romney grew up in Michigan but faces a tough fight after opposing President Barack Obama's bailout of the U.S. auto industry.
In Traverse City, Santorum blasted Romney as he tries to halt a slide in Michigan polls and score an upset in the state. He raised questions about Romney's opposition to auto bailouts while supporting bank bailouts during the 2008-09 financial crisis.
"Then why were you for not letting the market work on Wall Street? Why is Wall Street different? Either you believe in markets or you don't. Well I do," Santorum said at an unusual venue for the straight-laced candidate: Streeters nightclub.
An average of polling data by RealClearPolitics showed Romney with just a 2-point lead over Santorum in Michigan, where Romney's father was governor in the 1960s.
Richard Marr of Traverse City said he was still deciding whom he'd support. He did not like Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts, especially his healthcare law, but said Santorum's stress on social issues "would be a distraction."
"He (Romney) has a great business record, but when he was governor, he was ... not conservative at all," Marr said. "I'm looking at Santorum as an alternative to that predicament."
Romney is projected to beat Santorum handily in Arizona, which also holds a primary on Tuesday. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer endorsed Romney.
Santorum and Romney are near even in national polls, but surveys also show a majority of Republicans give Romney a better chance of defeating Obama in the general election on November 6 than the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, best known for his strong socially conservative positions like opposing gay marriage.
Santorum Attacks Kennedy
Santorum kept up his tough social conservative message, with attacks on Obama and former President John F. Kennedy.
Santorum called Obama a "snob" on Friday for wanting to send Americans to college - where he said they would be indoctrinated by liberal professors. Santorum also said Obama's goal "devalues the tremendous work" of those who do not attend universities.
"We have some real problems at our college campuses with political correctness, with an ideology that is forced upon people who, you know, who may not agree with the politically correct left doctrine," Santorum said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
"And one of the things that I've spoken out on - and will continue to speak out - is to make sure that conservative and more mainstream, common-sense conservative principles that have made this country great are reflected in our college courses and with college professors. And at many, many, and I would argue most institutions in this country, that simply isn't the case."
Santorum, who hopes to become the second Roman Catholic U.S. president, also said a 1960 speech on religion by Kennedy, the first, had made him want to throw up.
Kennedy said religion and politics should be kept separate, which Santorum called an "absolutist doctrine" that he rejected. "I don't believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," he said on ABC.
"To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up," Santorum said.
The two other Republican candidates, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, who trail Santorum and Romney in polls, were campaigning in Georgia and Michigan.
(Additional reporting by Simon Evans, Tom Ferraro, Will Dunham and Patricia Zengerle)