WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our top story, a sudden turn around here in Iowa. Our latest CNN/"TIME"/ORC poll shows Rick Santorum surging to third place with 16 percent, as Newt Gingrich fades badly and falls into fourth place. Santorum has covered just about every inch of this state of Iowa, staking his campaign on a strong showing here among social conservatives and others, and it certainly seems to be paying off with six days to go until the caucuses.
The former senator, the White House hopeful, is joining us now live in Dubuque.
You got a big smile on your face.
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm always smiling when I'm with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: You've always been pretty upbeat that things were eventually going to move in the right direction. If they had to move in the right direction for you, this is the good time for those directions to be moving in that.
SANTORUM: Well, we've always felt like, you know, we could trust the people of Iowa, that when they got down to the time when they were going to really seriously look at all the candidates and measure up to people they've had the opportunity to see, that we would do well, that we have the right message. We have the bold plans. We have a consistent track record and we would be the best contrast with Barack Obama to win that election.
And I think that's the decision that they're moving on making. And I'm very encouraged by it.
BLITZER: Now, you've done it the old fashioned way. You've been on the road. You're the first candidate to visit all 99 counties here in Iowa. You don't have a lot of money. You don't have a huge staff.
So now that you've moved up a little bit, what are you going to do to take it to the next level?
SANTORUM: Well, we've been fortunate. Our fundraising has picked here in the last couple of weeks and we're up on television right now. We're doing some radio ads, we're doing some mailing.
And, you know, it's like any small business person, Wolf, if the money's not coming in, you've just got to work harder and that's what we're doing. We're continuing to work harder. We're going, you know, up in the morning doing radio shows at 6:00 in the morning here and going until, you know, 9:00, 10:00 at night and town meeting after town meeting -- 357 town hall meetings I've done in the state of Iowa.
And, you know, hard work pays off, as it does on most areas of life.
BLITZER: As you know, the organization is critical. This isn't just going into a voting booth and spending a minute or two, pull a lever here or there, you've got to make a commitment to spend a few hours in a church, in a school, civic center and go out there. That's why Ron Paul's got that organization.
Do you have that organization that brings your supporters out?
SANTORUM: Yes, we're up over 1,000 caucus captains. Those are people who have agreed, 1,000 people have agreed.
BLITZER: There are 1,700 locations.
SANTORUM: Well, there's actually -- there are 1,700 precincts. There's not 1,700 caucus locations.
BLITZER: How many caucus locations?
SANTORUM: A little less than a thousand is what we're told. But we have 1,000 caucus captains. Not every caucus. We have -- some cases, we have four, five, six people at a caucus who are going to be caucus captains for us, and you can go into a caucus and you give a three to five minute speech for your candidate, you can wear the bad, you can go and talk to people, and, you know, gently twist a little arms.
We've seen from a lot of the polls that a large number of people are still, you know, moving around. As you've seen from all these polls, there's a lot of movement.
BLITZER: In six days, a lot could happen.
SANTORUM: A lot could happen. And so -- and we feel that we're best prepared with having people on the ground, who have met me, committed to me and are going to be there saying, you know, he came to independents, he came to Decorah, he came to, you know, Rock Rapids, he came to Red Oak and I -- we met him and you can help me in Montgomery County or Lyon County or Buchanan County.
Those are the kinds of interactions that are really important come caucus time and we think we have the horses on the ground to deliver that message.
BLITZER: You said yesterday if you were to come in last in the Iowa caucus, you'd drop out, right?
SANTORUM: What I said was if I came in dead last, way behind the pack, yes -- but I'm not going to do that.
BLITZER: Let me ask --
SANTORUM: I mean, our campaign's moving the other direction. BLITZER: I know. But I say that -- you think who does come in last, let's say, I don't know, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry, or whoever -- Huntsman obviously isn't even playing here. He's spending all of his time in New Hampshire. Should they drop out after next Tuesday if they do really poorly?--
SANTORUM: You know, there's -- there's been a lot of -- a lot of people trying to get candidates to combine and get together and do this. Look. Let the process work. And I was told by one of the sages in coming here to Iowa that the only reason a political candidate drops out running for president is they run out of money.
If you don't -- if you aren't doing well, you're going to run out of money, and you can't continue the campaign, and that's ultimately, I think, what will happen for those who don't do well.
BLITZER: Newt Gingrich was at 33 percent in early December. He's now at 14 percent. You're at 16 percent, you were at 5 percent in early December. What happened to Newt Gingrich here in Iowa?
SANTORUM: Oh, I -- you know, look. I've been pretty focused on just trying to deliver our message, and we've got a strong message on our made in the USA plan, which is really resonating with folks here in Iowa, trying to revitalize the manufacturing sector of the economy.
Our plan about how we're going to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. I talk, as you know, Wolf, I talk about family --
BLITZER: This is a huge issue for you. Iran and the nuclear --
SANTORUM: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: It's apparently not a big issue for Ron Paul.
SANTORUM: You know, that's one of the dangerous things that -- that I'm concerned about is that Ron Paul is in a position -- people -- I talk to folks here who like Ron Paul and see him as someone who's bold and he's trying to take on Washington and clean things up and shrink the size of the federal government. It has a lot of appeal to folks, not just here in Iowa but across the country.
Here's the problem. You've got to get Congress to work with you to do those things, and Ron doesn't have a very long record of actually passing anything in Washington, DC. But when it comes to national security, where a lot of folks in Iowa, even though they like him, are concerned about -- "We're not really crazy about his national security. But that -- we're not that worried, we like him on this other stuff."
The problem is, as you know, in the constitution, the president's powers are really in national security.
BLITZER: So, are you worried he could be dangerous if he were in the White House? SANTORUM: My concern is that Ron Paul will walk in there on day one and pull all our troops back and bring them back to this country and leave an enormous void around the world.
And he can do that, day one, without Congressional approval, without any oversight, he can, as commander-in-chief, move our troops anywhere in the world, disengage from -- from everyplace from Europe to the Middle East to China, abandon the Straits of Hormuz, pull the Fifth Fleet back.
That's something he can do. And that's one of the reasons I think you see a lot of folks who are having second thoughts about putting him in a position where he can be the commander-in-chief.
BLITZER: Because he says he wouldn't only bring troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan --
BLITZER: -- from Korea --
BLITZER: -- from Germany, from Japan. He wants them all to come back --
SANTORUM: Well, we have the --
BLITZER: -- which raises the question --
BLITZER: -- I've been asking it to your colleagues, and you know I'm going to ask you --
SANTORUM: I heard it, yes, yes.
BLITZER: If he were the Republican nominee for president, would you be able to vote for him?
BLITZER: You would?
SANTORUM: Oh, yes. I -- look, I --
BLITZER: Even though he would endanger, in your opinion, national security?
SANTORUM: I have -- I have serious concerns about that, but I also hope that enough pressure can be brought to bear on him if he becomes president that he won't make these horrific decisions.
BLITZER: Is he the kind of guy, though, can be pressured? I -- I've interviewed him many times --
SANTORUM: I'm nervous about it.
BLITZER: You know Ron Paul.
BLITZER: I know him, too. I don't think he's -- he's easily pressured.
SANTORUM: I'm nervous about it, but Barack Obama is this far away from Ron Paul on national security. No, he doesn't want to bring everybody back, but he's bringing a lot of folks back, and he is threatening and has promised to slash our military. Not as much as Ron Paul, but a lot.
And I think a second term with Barack Obama, I'm not too sure will look that different than a Ron Paul administration when it comes to national security.
BLITZER: A few months ago, I had Ron Paul in THE SITUATION ROOM with Barney Frank. They were jointly introducing legislation --
BLITZER: -- to cut about $100 billion in defense spending right away. And you say you would support him more than you would support the current president of the United States on national security?
SANTORUM: I'd have to -- I'd have to take a lot of antacids when I go into the voting booth and vote for him, but I think literally -- I'm serious about this. I think in a second term, Barack Obama would not be markedly different from Ron Paul on a lot of national security issues.
He would be un -- he would be free to do whatever he really wants to do, and I think it's pretty clear from President Obama's track record, he wants to disengage the world, turn over that job of international security to the United Nations, which is not where I want to go.
BLITZER: In the first four years, he's been very tough with drone strikes, accelerating those in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ron Paul would do none of that.
SANTORUM: He's been awful on Iran. He had an opportunity during the Green Revolution to assist, as he did in Egypt against our ally, he didn't do in Iran against our mortal enemy. That to me is a president who -- who doesn't understand the world and is a very dangerous person to keep in office.
BLITZER: He sent Navy SEALs in to kill bin Laden.
SANTORUM: Well, again, that's continuing an existing policy. But when contingencies came up on his watch, he blew it. He blew every call.
BLITZER: Would Ron Paul as commander-in-chief have sent in Navy SEALs to kill bin Laden?
BLITZER: But you could still vote for him more than -- ?
SANTORUM: Because -- I don't think he will be markedly different, other than the bin Laden situation, I don't think he'll be markedly different than Barack Obama.
BLITZER: Hold your thought for a moment --
SANTORUM: I'd be happy to.
BLITZER: -- because there's much more to discuss. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're reporting live from Dubuque, Iowa. All of a sudden, Rick Santorum is third in our brand new CNN/Time/ORC poll. Newt Gingrich is fourth. Much more to discuss when we come back.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: We're here live in Dubuque, Iowa, with Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, and this new poll -- and we've been showing it to our viewers -- you're now third.
But Romney is still first, 25 percent; Ron Paul, 22 percent; you're at 16 percent. Why should, let's say, Mitt Romney supporters flip and support you? Why you instead of Mitt Romney? FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we present the clearest contrast with President Obama and the best chance to win. You know, back in 1980, we had the choice between someone who is a little bit more moderate Republican and someone who was a strong conservative against Jimmy Carter. And the Republican Party chose the clear contrast.
BLITZER: The national polls show he's more electable than you are. SANTORUM: Well, but does -- you -- look at the polls three months ago, and everyone said I was dead in Iowa. Polls change. Convictions don't. And you're a conviction politician, you're not going to -- you're not going to bob and weave and squish. You're going to stand up and when someone says, you know, attacks you for a conservative position, you're not going to bob and weave.
You're going to stand up and say, that's right, that's what I believe. And here's why I believe it, and here's why it's better than what the president believes.
BLITZER: So, the biggest criticism of Mitt Romney that you have is?
SANTORUM: Well, I just think we have a better track record of being -- of being strong on the issues and creating that clear contrast --
BLITZER: You say you're (inaudible). But is there anything wrong with him? SANTORUM: , Well, obviously, his position on RomneyCare, his position on marriage, his position on cap-and-trade, there's a whole laundry list of issues where Mitt's been all over the map, which will create --
BLITZER: He opposes gays -- or gay marriage. SANTORUM: Well, but he didn't when he was in Massachusetts. He actually issued marriage licenses.
BLITZER: He changed his (inaudible)?
SANTORUM: Well, yes, he's -- I mean, he's -- like I said --
BLITZER: He said he's always opposed gay marriage --
SANTORUM: Well --
BLITZER: -- but he had no choice when you're governor of a state like that. SANTORUM: Now he did have a choice and that's the -- and that's the issue. And, you know, he doesn't -- he and I disagree on that, but I think it's pretty clear he had a choice, and he made the wrong choice.
And that's -- again, if you're looking to someone who is a -- who is a conviction politician, who's not going to move around on the issues, who's present a clear contrast -- and this is important, Wolf -- Mitt Romney's never proven to win in an election where he had to get Democrats and independents as a conservative. When he ran in Massachusetts, he didn't run as a conservative.
I've run as a conservative in a blue state of Pennsylvania and won two elections. Yes, I lost one in an election year where everybody lost, but in the election years what -- that were contested, that are going to be more like 2012 than 2006, those are the elections I won in Pennsylvania, and we can win them again. BLITZER: Rick Perry, he's certainly competing with a lot of your supporters, Michele Bachmann. But Rick Perry's got an ad that's running right now that's lumping you in with those so-called Washington insiders because of the years you spent as a senator in Washington. I'll play a little clip. Watch it and we'll discuss.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If Washington's the problem, why trust a congressman to fix it? Among them, they've spent 63 years in Congress leaving us with debt, earmarks and bailouts. Congressmen get $174,000 a year and you get the bill. We need a solution.
GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's the reason I've called for a part-time Congress. Cut their pay in half. Cut their time in Washington in half. Cut their staff in half. Send them home. Let them get a job like everybody else in the homeland (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. What do you say? You know, you were a congressman, you weren't making, what, $174,000, $180,000?
(CROSSTALK) SANTORUM: That was a while ago. I was making a lot less then. But that's --
BLITZER: You were in the House and then in the Senate.
SANTORUM: Yes, I was in the House, then I was in the Senate. But I think what we've seen as experience actually is a valuable thing. You know, we have a president who came in with very little experience and didn't do a very good job in most people's estimates.
And I think having someone, particularly if you go back and you have a senator who has some experience in the United States Senate, which Obama really didn't, I did. And if you look at the track record, I got a lot of things done when we were in the Senate.
And that experience helped Lyndon Johnson be able to be a pretty effective president, not that I agree with his policies. But he was able to understand the dynamics.
And the other thing is, you know, if you look at someone who's -- who has the experience of being able to go out and communicate that message, being able to lead the American public, again, we've got a -- we've got a good track record on those things.
And I like -- I like our chances here. I really do. I think, you know, Rick has some great ideas, but these ideas -- they're going to require constitutional amendments and members of Congress are going to -- are going to cut their salary in half and limit their time?
Well, that's first off, our founders would be -- would be spinning in their graves. Congress is supposed to be the main body of power, not the president. And what he would do is propose really a much more of an imperial presidency, which I don't think is a good idea.
BLITZER: Stand by. We got one more segment then I want talk to you a little bit more, much more with Rick Santorum. He's doing well in the Iowa polls. Our brand new poll shows he's third now, just ahead of Newt Gingrich. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're here with Senator Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, the Republican presidential candidate. Very quickly, Rick Perry now says he no longer supports abortion, even in the case of incest or rape. Now, he's moving towards your position. Is that going to help him?
SANTORUM: Well, I think a lot of people are moving toward my position, trying to -- trying to get, you know, into the conservative primary, if you will. Again, I think someone who's been there consistently, someone who's -- who has those convictions at their core is going to get the trust of the people more than folks who are moving on election time conversions.
BLITZER: What about life of the mother?
SANTORUM: Oh, I -- no, the life of the mother is choosing between one life or another. And the government has no role to play if --
BLITZER: So if the -- you would accept an abortion to save the mother's life?
SANTORUM: If it's -- if it's a choice between two lives, then that's a decision that --
BLITZER: That's where you make --
SANTORUM: -- (inaudible).
BLITZER: That's where you draw the line?
SANTORUM: If it's -- if it's -- the mother's life is not in danger, then you can't take another life.
BLITZER: Obviously, these issues are very important to caucusgoers in Iowa. I've heard -- you know, there's 3 million people in Iowa. And maybe 120,000-150,000 will show up at these -- that's a small percentage.
SANTORUM: And that's why organization matters, that's why getting out and pressing the flesh -- as I'm sure that happens in your polls. Your pollsters are, you know, focusing in on more and more people who are coming.
And as you get closer, people have pretty made a -- much a decision whether they're coming or not, and you're not -- you're catching a smaller universe of folks, which gives you a little better understanding of what's the real dynamics on the ground here.
BLITZER: Senator, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.
SANTORUM: My pleasure, thanks.
BLITZER: Senator Rick Santorum. He's doing well in the polls.