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Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - December 29, 2011

CROWLEY: And that is a picture of the gorgeous state capitol here in Des Moines, Iowa. We're inside one of the gorgeous rooms inside this capitol.

It used to be the Supreme Court chambers, now a place where they come and have meetings, but a gorgeous place inside a city that is teeming with politicians and a state that is teeming with politicians right now.

Ever-changing lineup here -- you know you have become a top-tier candidate when your opponents stop ignoring you and start attacking you. That's happening today to former Senator Rick Santorum. Our latest polls show him surging into third place here in Iowa.

Today, the voters and the media and, yes, a couple of his fellow Republicans noticed. He spoke with us a little bit ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CROWLEY: Senator, thanks for joining us.

You know, there was a little "welcome to the top tier" message to you this morning in the form of a radio ad from Rick Perry. I want you to take a listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Santorum grabbed for a billion in earmarks, until voters kicked him out of office in a landslide.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CROWLEY: This morning, Romney's communications director said on FOX, "Governor Romney spent his career in the private sector, while Senator Santorum spent his time in Washington."

Both guys on the mark here?

SANTORUM: Well, I would say, first, I have spent my time in the public and private sector.

I was fortunate enough the people of Pennsylvania in a heavily Democratic district in a heavily Democratic state elected me at a young age of 32 to the House, defeating a Democratic incumbent, and to the Senate, defeating another Democratic incumbent, taking on tough challenges, and being successful in the states that are necessary and the areas that are necessary for a Republican to win the presidency.

I don't apologize for that at all. And we were able to do a lot of strong conservative things, including cut spending, which takes on Rick Perry's idea. We -- you look at my record. I introduced more original bills one year to cut spending than anybody else.

I fought for the budget balanced amendment to the Constitution. I voted against increases in spending time and time and time again. I have a great record from the taxpayer groups and from the spending groups.

Yes, did I have some earmarks? Well, if you look at the Constitution of the United States, it says that Congress spends the money. And what happened was that earmarks were abused, not mine, but others who did abuse the earmark process. And when that became evident and that the public was upset about it and saw this as a real disqualifier that shouldn't be done anymore, I said, you know, look, if the public is saying that Congress should be doing this anymore, I will go along with it.

CROWLEY: Senator, tell me. Looking at you now, you have had a great uptick in the polls to third, look like you might get one of those three tickets out of Iowa, as they say.

But what makes you not the soup du jour, as so many of your predecessors have that have seen some sparks in their campaign, only to kind of go back on the road to Mitt Romney?

SANTORUM: You know, this isn't my first rodeo.

I have been through very, very tough campaigns, big national scrutiny types of campaigns in the state of Pennsylvania. The last few races -- actually, the three statewide races I ran in Pennsylvania had the national meeting covering, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," et cetera, digging and scraping and finding everything they possibly could.

It's all out there. You know, there are issues. I have never said I'm a perfect candidate, but if you look at the things that I have accomplished and the things that I have fought for, I have been a strong, consistent conservative and a constitutional conservative, again, not perfect, but the issues with me are issues that -- I have made some mistakes.

CROWLEY: Senator, one of the other things in our poll was on that very important issue of electability.

You know, we talk a lot about how campaigns -- voters, they sort of have a candidate of the heart, and then their head tells them, I want someone who can beat the other guy. And when we asked likely Republican caucus-goers who's got the best chance of beating President Obama in November, Romney was at 41 percent, and you were at 4 percent.

So while you clearly have grabbed the hearts of some of these folks here in Washington enough to boost you into the top tier, only 4 percent of likely caucus-goers believe that you actually could beat President Obama.

SANTORUM: Well, that's because most of the media says that Mitt Romney is a guy that can beat President Obama. But what history does Mitt Romney have of beating anybody as a conservative?

CROWLEY: There's polling for it as well.

SANTORUM: Well, but -- yes, but you realize that polling -- you know, polls change. Convictions don't change. And what we need is a conviction politician who is authentic that the American people can trust. That's what we need in this election, someone who draws a clear contrast, someone who has a bold plan to balance the budget in five years, someone who has experience on national security and has a track record of confronting radical Islam and being right on the issues when it comes to the security of our country and the state of Israel.

We need someone who understands the intrinsic value of the role of the family, who went out and fought those issues when it wasn't popular. I'm the candidate that actually was able to win in states as a conservative, in getting Democrats and independents to vote for us when, -- you know, when I was out there fighting all these battles.

Mitt Romney has no track history of doing that. In fact, he's only run as a moderate or a liberal. And when he ran as a conservative in the primary last time, he lost.

CROWLEY: So, just to sum up, you don't think that Mitt Romney could beat President Obama?

SANTORUM: I think I'm the best candidate not just to beat President Obama, but to do what is necessary to get this country going, a conviction conservative who can rally the American public around a common set of values.

And this is very much the 1980 election all over again. And this is, you know, do we go with someone who the pundits say can win, or do we go with someone who we know is the best person to govern this country? And I hope, like we did in 1980, we chose the latter, and it made all the difference.

CROWLEY: But do you think he could win?

SANTORUM: Look, I think any of the Republicans have a decent chance of beating Barack Obama. That's not the question.

The question is who's the best person to govern the country if we do one. We don't want a Pyrrhic victory. We want a victory that actually does the things that are necessary to make our country free, safe, and prosperous.

CROWLEY: Senator Rick Santorum, you certainly have timing on your side. If you're going to peak, this is a good time to do it.

Thanks so much for your time this morning. Good luck in the days ahead.

SANTORUM: Thank you so much, Candy. 

John King, USA

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