Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - January 9, 2012

KING: Today in New Hampshire, Rick Santorum predicted the race for the Republican nomination will boil down to a one-on-one contest between himself and Mitt Romney. Perhaps wishful thinking, given his New Hampshire struggles, but Senator Santorum used his final-day pitch to deliver an anti-Romney history lesson of sorts.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Let's put up, you know, Bob Dole because it's his turn. Let's put up John McCain because it's his turn. Let's put up those moderates that can win, right, those moderates that can win. According to who?


KING: The former senator taking a break from the campaign trail to join us live from Manchester.

Senator, thanks for your time on such an important evening.

Governor Huntsman, Speaker Gingrich, Governor Perry right now as we speak down in South Carolina seizing on this comment, Governor Romney, clearly the front-runner in New Hampshire, saying today, you know, I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.

You have said earlier today, I'm not making it a liability. I believe in the private sector. Not an opening?

SANTORUM: Well, look, you know, let people judge what his comments are.

I'm going to talk about his record. His record as governor is plenty of fodder for me to show someone who is not a limited government conservative, is not a constitutional conservative, someone who believes in government solutions to the problems and not believing in free markets, free people and free enterprise.

And that's what the president and the presidency is about in this election, getting this economy going. And that's where I'm going to focus on. And certainly every comment everybody makes is certainly fuel for fodder for the voters to talk about. But I'm going to keep focused on our economic message of making sure that everybody in America prospers, particularly as you have heard me talk about the manufacturing sector in small towns and blue-collar workers having the chance to rise in society.

KING: But you come from that blue-collar background and you talk about your grandfather in the coal mines. You talk about your work to try to help bring back the steel plants that closed down.

When you look at the field -- I know you think -- and we're going to get to it in a minute -- I know you think you have potential long- term in this race. But you know what the other guys are doing? They're trying to say Mitt is rich, Mitt doesn't get you, he doesn't understand downscale working-class voters.

When you look at the rest of the field, is that fair for them to make that argument, or if not you, who would you pick?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I don't know.

They all come from different backgrounds. I know Rick Perry has come from a humble background. Newt came from a relatively humble background. Look, this is a different Republican Party. I certainly can attest to that. My grandfather was a Democrat. He was a union guy, was a union coal miner.

And so the idea that the Republican Party is the party of what used to be called the Rockefeller Republicans, that party's long gone. This is a much more diverse party focused on small business, talking about the values that made this country great of limited government and believing in small community solutions and family solutions to the problems. And that's what we know works.

That's what we know, commonsense values of America. And that's what the Republican Party represents today.

KING: You're telling the voters of New Hampshire, make me the commander in chief. I have the most experience if you go back and look at my time in the Senate.

You use sometimes provocative language when it comes to what a President Santorum would do if we're in the dicey situation we're in right now, Iran developing perhaps a nuclear weapon if it can deliver a missile and talking in a very threatening way about the Straits of Hormuz.

Listen to Senator Santorum campaigning earlier today.


SANTORUM: Ultimately saying that, you know, if none of this is working and we are concerned about this happening, then we set a deadline. And we say, if you don't meet that deadline and open up this facility and begin to dismantle it, we're going to take it out for you. Declare war? No, but take out with tactical strikes to take out this facility.


KING: Would a President Santorum do deadline strikes or deadline last-ditch dialogue strikes?

SANTORUM: Well, of course, I think you heard the beginning of that quote. I said ultimately. I had gone through a whole series of things that we would do before we would hit that point.

But I have made it very, very clear and I have made it repeatedly clear. When a theocracy that has the same kind of virulent jihadist ideology that the Iranian government has that is similar, almost identical -- except it's Shiite vs. Sunni -- to al Qaeda, is in control of a nuclear weapon, the world is a fundamentally different place. It is a world that the United States cannot let happen if we have the opportunity to stop it from happening.

Some have suggested by taking strikes, again, if that is absolutely necessary, to stop them from getting a nuclear weapon will start a war. I disagree. It will stop a horrible war that will happen when Iran will be funding terrorist organizations and other groups that will be waging jihad around the world, and particularly here in the homeland of this country.

So this is not a -- this is not something that I take lightly. I take it very seriously. We're going to give Iran every opportunity to step away from the brink of being a nuclear power, but if they do not, then we cannot let that happen.

KING: Help game this out for me, Senator, what we're going to be learning, what the conversation will be inside your inner circle tomorrow night.

You were the candidate who ran very close to Governor Romney, eight votes the difference in Iowa. You come into New Hampshire with some momentum. If you can again outperform Speaker Gingrich in New Hampshire -- we all assume Governor Romney is way ahead in the state, that he will win -- if you outperform Speaker Gingrich, you know the calculation if we go to South Carolina. You were just talking about it there.

It was Bob Dole's turn, it was John McCain's turn. If Mitt Romney has Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, to his right, he may well win South Carolina. If you can outperform the speaker again, would you turn to him and say we need a conservative to get a clear shot at Governor Romney, I have beat you twice, you should step aside?

SANTORUM: Well, I'm not going to turn to anybody and ask anybody to get out of this race.

I'm going to talk about trying to get the people of South Carolina if we do well here in New Hampshire to do just that, to line up behind the strongest candidate here. Obviously, we finished in a tie for first. And Speaker Gingrich finished fourth in Iowa. We're hopeful to do well here.

Obviously, you know, Speaker Gingrich got the "Union Leader" endorsement, which some have said is worth 10 points here in New Hampshire. And they have been working hard for him in the newspaper here. He's been spending money here.

We haven't spent a penny on broadcast television here in New Hampshire. We have only spent five days campaigning here in the last month. And we just came here starting at two or three points, pretty much tied with Rick Perry in New Hampshire. And we have been working hard and we're now up into the double digits. And hopefully we can finish well.

If we again do better than these other two conservative alternatives, if you will, I'm hopeful that they will take a look at making sure that we don't keep dividing the vote and we can line up behind another candidate. But that's their decision to make.

KING: Senator Santorum, we will let you get back out there -- 24 hours from now, we will see just how all that shoe leather pays off for you.

Appreciate your time on this important night, sir. We will see you tomorrow.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, John.

KING: Thank you. 

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