Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - January 23, 2012

KING: Gingrich vs. Romney or Romney vs. Gingrich. Read about the Republican presidential race the past 24 hours, most of the buzz is about this new dramatic two-man race between the winners of South Carolina and the New Hampshire primary.

Well, not so fast, insists the guy who won the first contest.

The Iowa caucus winner, Rick Santorum, is with us today from Lady Lake, Florida.

Senator Santorum, it's good to see you.

You understand the dynamic in the race. Speaker Gingrich is raising money based on his South Carolina win. Governor Romney has a deeper financial network than Senator Santorum. Even earlier today, you told this to reporters before an event there at a manufacturing plant: "Sitting on the sidelines watching two people destroy each other creates an opportunity itself."

Is that what you're hoping for, that maybe Speaker Gingrich takes out Governor Romney and then, all of a sudden, the party says, whoa?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, has been the narrative from actually the very beginning of this campaign. The media always tries to make this a two-person race.


KING: That's not the media. That's -- you said that, Senator. You said that. You said, "Sitting on the sidelines watching two people destroy each other creates an opportunity."

That's not us.

SANTORUM: Well, yes, it was in response to a question about a two-person race. So, yes, it depends on the question that was asked.

So, having said that, obviously, those two are getting the media attention. And you can't deny that. That's obviously the case. And there are advantages. As we have seen throughout the course of this campaign, one thing is for certain. Things are going to change. And we believe things are going to change again, and that as people continue to look at the candidates -- there are now four candidates.

This is a field where three have an opportunity to become president and are actually running not just to change the party, but to change the country and actually become president. And I feel very, very good that, as this campaign continues, our stock is going to rise again and we will be right in the mix of this thing, and starting tonight.

KING: And you get the sense -- tonight is one of two debates this week in Florida. You get the sense that you view your number-one priority is trying to appeal to those conservative voters who might be leaning the speaker's way right now.

I say that because Governor Romney just said, nominate Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party might get a dangerous October surprise. Sometimes, it sounds like you're on the same page with Governor Romney.


SANTORUM: When Newt was speaker of the House, well, within three years, the conservatives in the House of Representatives tried to throw him out. And in the fourth year, they did.

Why? Because he wasn't governing as a conservative. He didn't live up to all of the hype. It's great to be glib, but it's better to be principled.


KING: Just today again, Senator, Speaker Gingrich said, "I'm the Reagan conservative in the race."

You disagree?

SANTORUM: I'm the Reagan conservative in the race, if you look at the track record of someone who not only espoused those principles consistently, as well as someone who when they were in a position of leadership led and actually had conservative -- broad, strong, consistent conservative support from not just within the ranks of the Senate, but from outside.

And, you know, I'm not just a conservative in the race, I mean, vis-a-vis Newt Gingrich. I'm the conservative in the race vis-a-vis Mitt Romney. So, both of them have problems in winning a general election and rallying our base.

And I have been out there talking about issues that are going to attract voters, both Republicans and Reagan Democrats, talking about growing this economy, manufacturing base, getting this economy going again, strengthening our national security, and, of course, shrinking the size and scale of government.

And so we have been out there on a very clear message as we did here today at the Villages in Florida. And we're going to continue that message for quite some time.

KING: Senator, at your event there earlier today, a woman stood up and she delivered a pretty out-there attack on the president. I want you to listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I never refer to Obama as President Obama, because, legally, he is not.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, well, he constantly says that our Constitution is passe. And he totally ignores it, as you know. He does what he darn well pleases. He is an avowed Muslim.


KING: And this, sir, is how you responded.



SANTORUM: I'm doing my best to try to get him out of the government right now.


SANTORUM: And -- and you're right about how he uniformly ignores the Constitution.


KING: You're not responsible for what somebody in the audience says, Senator. I want to make that perfectly clear.


KING: But do you feel any sense of responsibility to say, whoa? Senator McCain repeatedly in 2008 would stop people who went down that line, saying, look, let's fight him on policy, let's not go there.

SANTORUM: I have repeatedly done that.

I don't feel it's my obligation every time someone says something I don't agree with to contradict them. And the president's a big boy. He can defend himself and his record. And I'm going to go out and talk about the issues that the president and I disagree on and try to defeat him, because I think that's the best thing we can do for the future of our country.

KING: I understand on every point, but something like that, standing up and saying he's an avowed Muslim, you don't feel any obligation to say, ma'am, let's fight him on taxes, let's fight him on spending, let's fight him on size of government, but let's not do that?

SANTORUM: I think I have repeated that many, many times throughout the course of this campaign.

I don't really feel an obligation to go out and repeat it over and over again as people bring that up. My position's clear. The president's position is clear. I don't think the president's a Muslim, but I don't think it's my obligation to go out and repeat that every time someone who feels that way says something.

KING: Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, former senator, Senator, good luck in Florida. Appreciate your time today.

SANTORUM: Thanks, John. You bet. 

John King, USA

Author Archive

Follow Real Clear Politics

Latest On Twitter