Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - March 9, 2012

KING: Senator, let's start with the new unemployment report. You're among the Republican candidates traveling the country trying to convince not only Republicans, but all Americans we need a new president because of his economic leadership.

Three consecutive months now of job growth above 200,000 a month, the president's in a better position today than he was a few months ago, no?

SANTORUM: Well, three-and-a-half years with 8-plus percent unemployment, that's not a good position for anybody to be.

And this is a recovery that has been anemic by any standard. And the principal reason is the president's oppressive regulatory and tax policies and his continuing growing the size and scale of the budget, and, again, the budget deficit, all of which are weighing down, and his horrible energy policy, which as we have seen is leading now to higher and higher gas prices and another headwind for the economy.

KING: But you know how this works. If the statistics do continue to get a little better, he will be in somewhat better, maybe dramatically better chance of reelection.

So if there's a Republican voter out there about to vote in Kansas, about to vote in Mississippi or Alabama or beyond who says, whoa, this looks like it might be an even tougher race now, what's your case to say, here's why I can still beat President Obama on the economy in a sentence or two?

SANTORUM: Well, the bottom line is that if we have a candidate that is -- just a little different than Barack Obama and just running on the fact that he can create jobs, which is what Governor Romney's doing, even though he was 47th out of 50 states when he was governor in job creation, you're going to have a hard time.

You have got to have a broader message. You have got to have a message about what's really at stake in this election. And that is, yes, the economy -- the reason the economy is struggling and will continue to struggle under this president is because of government regulation.

He's denying people freedom. And this is an election about liberty. This is an election about big things for this country, about government regulation and oppression of our lives. And that has to be the narrative. It can't be about, well, you know, I'm better -- I'm going to create X-number of jobs. I'm going to create the freedom for you to go out and create the jobs. That's the issue.


KING: Still ahead, passengers on an American Airlines flight witness a shocking scene as a flight attendant warns them their plane will crash before they had even taken off.

And Newt Gingrich says he isn't going anywhere. How does that affect the Santorum strategy? We will ask Senator Santorum right after this.


KING: Let's continue our conversation with now the Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. He's looking for wins in Kansas, Mississippi, and Alabama. But some recent polling shows he's got some catching up to do.


KING: You have been telling the voters in Kansas, in Alabama and Mississippi in recent days, give me a couple of good days here, give me a few wins and I will have a two-person race, Rick Santorum against Mitt Romney.


KING: But if you look at latest polling down in Mississippi out just today, Newt Gingrich 35 percent, Mitt Romney 31 percent, Rick Santorum 20 percent.

You're running third in that poll in Mississippi.

But listen here to Speaker Gingrich today. He says he's not going anywhere.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm going to be all the way to Tampa. There's no question in my mind.


KING: Senator, the Romney campaign says if Gingrich stays in and you guys keep splitting the votes, there's no way either one of you can mathematically get there.

SANTORUM: Well, we will just let this all play out.

As we have seen since I think it's Nevada, we have finished first or second in almost every state, I think maybe three or four that we didn't. But Congressman Gingrich, outside of the state of Georgia, has finished third or fourth in every other race. And so the congressman can stay in, the speaker can stay in as long as he wants to stay in. I think what we're going to see is, as this campaign goes on, I think we're going to have a good win here in Kansas. I think we're going to run well in Alabama and Mississippi. I have seen other polls that have us a much closer race in both of those states.

So, I feel like we're clearly the candidate right now that is the alternative to a moderate Republican from Massachusetts being the nominee of the party, not exactly the kind of contrast that I think is going to be a winning one for us in the general election.

KING: You're standing in Kansas tonight. You just criticized Governor Romney.

So, I want to read you something from a Romney supporter who happens to be a pretty famous son of Kansas, Bob Dole. He says this about you to ABC News: "I don't know what the appeal is to Rick. He's a great family man and he's certainly a good person, but I don't see him as a leader. I don't believe he's had any real private experience and no position of leadership -- well, high leadership in politics."

How would you answer Senator Dole?

SANTORUM: Well, I -- look, I have a lot of respect for Bob Dole. He is someone who was I was privileged to serve with in the United States Senate. And Bob Dole left in 1996. I was two years in the United States Senate. And, clearly, I was 36 years old when I came to the Senate.

And the Bob Dole and the Rick Santorum relationship was almost 20 years ago. So I don't blame Senator Dole for saying what he said and the experience he had 20 years ago with me. Obviously, I have gone through a lot more in my life since that time.

And I think what the people are seeing is someone who can paint a vision for this country, someone who can go out and has the courage to lead and fight to make things happen in this country, and someone who tells them the truth, unlike Governor Romney, who has repeatedly throughout the course of this election maintained that he simply did not advocate for Obamacare and did not offer a federal mandate as a solution to the health care problems that this country is confronting.

And now we find repeatedly that Governor Romney in 2009 at the heart of this debate did just that, and then went out in this campaign and did not tell the truth to the voters of the Republican Party. We already got one president who isn't honest with the American public on a variety of different issues. We should not put up someone whose policy is wrong and very similar, if not identical, to the president's, but also can't tell the truth to the folks about what his position was in a very critical time when Obamacare was being debated.

KING: Let me ask you a commander in chief question. As we speak today, the United Nations' top humanitarian official went to Syria. She presented the Assad government with a plan. She's trying to get relief supplies in. She's trying to get monitors in. She says they want some time to think about it. Senator McCain says the United States should start moving quickly for airstrikes, some other effort to help the opposition.

What would you do if you were president today?

SANTORUM: Well, I would be working to provide as much aid to the rebel forces there as possible, indirectly, be supporting them as best we could.

I'm not comfortable at this point with committing to airstrikes. But I think we have to understand that Syria's part of a very important axis against Israel and the United States and the West. And that, of course, is Iran and Syria are very much joined at the hip. And even the Russians have weighed in about protecting Syria and this thug regime of Assad.

So this is not just -- this is not Libya. This is not even Egypt. This is a much more complicated picture. And I think we have to be bold, in the sense that we need to continue to maintain that he needs to leave, and we need to act accordingly. But I think we have to be very, very cautious about how much we act in that regard.

KING: Senator Rick Santorum from the campaign trail today.

Sir, good luck in Kansas and the next few days. We will touch base after the next round of contests.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, John. Appreciate it. 

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