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Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

Interview with Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum

By John King, USA - March 30, 2012

KING: As you know, Senator, at the moment as you're campaigning in Wisconsin, there's a bit of what I will call a rally around Romney movement in the party, former President George H.W. Bush, on the other end of the generational spectrum, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in the past 24 hours or so.

And today in the state where you are in Wisconsin, a man who's quite popular among conserves, the House Budget Committee chairman, Paul Ryan, let's listen to Chairman Ryan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: What we need is a leader who sees this moment for what it is. What we need is a leader who has the courage of conservative principles and conviction, who has the integrity and the tenacity to do what it takes to get America back on track.

And in my humble personal opinion, as a guy from Janesville, What we need is Mitt Romney to be the next president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Senator, Chairman Ryan right there just said Mitt Romney is everything you say he isn't, a man of conservative principles and conviction.

SANTORUM: Well, he said it's his own personal opinion, and he has a right to that personal position.

But I think the facts bear out a very different story on Governor Romney. And we have laid that out and laid it out very clearly, and we have laid out the importance of having someone who can present a strong contrast and will not be the focal point of this election.

As you know and we have seen in the last week, the centerpiece issue in this election is Obamacare and the enormous burden it is on our economy, what it's doing to drive up unemployment, what it's doing to explode the federal budget, as well as to explode the deficit, and, of course, the impingement upon liberty, liberty both economic liberty and our religious liberties.

This is a colossal issue. And it's the issue that Governor Romney is the least qualified to make because he was the author of the blueprint of Obamacare. So I respect Congressman Ryan, but I think on the most central issue of the day, he has it all wrong.

And this is a -- this is a major problem when the huge Achilles' heel of this president, where three-quarters of the American public disagree with this mandate, and that yet Governor Romney started the ball rolling in Massachusetts and then advocated for this mandate at the federal level.

Frankly, I think he will be destroyed by President Obama on this issue come the fall. And it should be the biggest issue that helps us win this election. It will be turned into a negative under Mitt Romney. So I, you know, obviously couldn't more strongly disagree. I respect Paul and the work he's done for the conservative cause, but I think on this issue and on this vital issue, he's got it wrong.

KING: And yet he gives Governor Romney his endorsement in the state you're in today, Wisconsin, which is viewed as your best chance on Tuesday.

The new NBC/Marist poll out today, Governor Romney at 40 percent, Senator Santorum 33 percent, Congressman Paul and Newt Gingrich down at the bottom of the pack.

If you are zero for three on Tuesday, Senator, can you continue?

SANTORUM: Well, our plan is to take this all the way.

We believe that a conservative will be the nominee of the party coming out of the convention and that if we don't have a conservative, we will end up with the same situation we have had over the past 100 years. There's been over 100 years now. There's only one Republican that's ever defeated a sitting Democratic incumbent president, one.

And it's the one time we ran a strong conviction conservative, in the face of the party saying no, no, no, we need a moderate. We need to win. We need to win. They always say that. And we always lose. And the one time we didn't listen to the establishment, the Washington insiders, we had Ronald Reagan. And not only did we win. We changed the country.

KING: As you know, though, Governor Romney does have a pretty convincing lead in the delegate chase right now.

If he won all three states on Tuesday, many people say it would be impossible. That's why some conservatives, even allies of yours say this is Rick Santorum's last stand. Do you agree?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, they have been saying that about me -- my epitaph has been written many, many times throughout the course of this campaign.

So I'm just going to take it a day at a time, and we're going to keep working very, very hard and go out there and articulate the principles that I think will win this election in the fall.

KING: Governor Romney and his allies are not letting up on you. I was watching a basketball game here in D.C. last night. Obviously, Maryland and D.C. both vote on Tuesday. It was an ad by the pro- Romney super PAC beating you up pretty good during that sporting event.

And I want you to listen here. Governor Romney has a robo-call to voters in Wisconsin calling you a friend of big labor.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wouldn't normally make these calls, but I was shocked to find out that Rick Santorum repeatedly supported big labor and joined with liberal Democrats in voting against right-to- work legislation during his time in Washington.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: Are you a friend of big labor, Senator?

SANTORUM: Well, the head of the AFL-CIO in Pennsylvania said calling Rick Santorum a friend of big labor is like calling Mitt Romney a conservative. Neither are true.

I mean, for Mitt Romney to suggest that he's the conservative in the race and that I'm not is actually a little laughable. But, you know, when you have millions of dollars, you can go out and try to paint a picture that isn't -- that's surreal, and we will wait and see whether the voters of Wisconsin are going to buy it.

KING: Senator Santorum, appreciate your time tonight.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

KING: Take care, sir. 

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