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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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Well, Senator, you just heard what Newt Gingrich just said. He seems to say that Mitt Romney would not just be a bad choice but a real problem for Republicans. Do you share that feeling?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think we need a stark contrast in this race. And Mitt Romney doesn't do that. And Newt laid out his record as governor which is as a moderate to liberal governor of the state of Massachusetts.

The most central issue in this campaign is America's freedom and government usurping that freedom. And the biggest issue that Americans are concerned about is this huge expansion and explosion of health care into "Obama-care."

And Governor Romney's plan, as much as he'd like to say it's not, was the basis of "Obama-care." He was for an individual mandate. He was for government top-down control of the health care system.

And it has led to the highest cost health care in the nation in Massachusetts. It has led to increased taxes. It has led to increased taxes on the federal level because we've had to -- we've been pumping literally billions of Medicare dollars into the state of Massachusetts to pay for "Romney-care."

It is an absolute disaster.

SANTORUM: And to have the two of them up against each other on the issue that Americans are most -- care most about and for us to give away that issue with Governor Romney would be a case of, in my opinion, malpractice on the part of the primary voters in the states to come.

SCHIEFFER: Is what you're saying, senator, is that Mitt Romney would be the worst candidate that Republicans could put forward? He would be the weakest candidate who would have the least chance to win?

SANTORUM: What I'm saying is he would not have the clear record that I have, that is better than anybody else in the field. That's why I'm running. Being for government out of the health care business, being for a plan that is a bottom-up private sector health care reform.

I've been that way. I've had a consistent record, unlike other folks in this race. I have had a consistent record over that time of not being for individual mandates and that includes the speaker. I have -- he has been for individual mandates, I have not.

I've been someone who has been a strong, consistent conservative, that's the kind of contrast we need if we're going to take on Barack Obama and make him the issue in this race, not someone who can cloud the issues and make it difficult for us to make that decisive choice. And also to govern with a mandate.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you said the other day to some folks down there in South Carolina that the establishment is trying to ram Mitt Romney down our throats, that we've tried it before and it didn't work. What's that all about? What did you mean?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, if you look at where the quote, establishment, all the big money, you look at the hundreds of millions they're now talking about him in this Super PAC and where that money is coming from. And all of the quote, establishment Republican figures in this -- in the country are lining up and talking about the inevitability.

We've been down this road before of, you know, who is next in line. It's who the people are comfort -- this is the establishment that doesn't really mind the way things are going in Washington, D.C. that much. They're OK with a little bit of change not a lot of change. But when someone comes forward like me who has been a reformer, who has shaken things up in Washington, D.C. in the time I was there, who wasn't part of the club, when someone like that comes around that's a threat to the establishment and that's why you've seen -- you haven't seen them line up behind me. You have seen them line up behind the, you know, the moderate candidate who they would feel comfortable with.

Well, America doesn't need someone to be comfortable with as far as those folks are concerned. America needs to change that is necessary to get our budget balanced, to get this economy growing, to have a strong moral foundation and a lean forward national security policy that makes America safe.

I bring that to the table.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you this question why do you think you would be a better conservative than, say, Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich?

SANTORUM: Well, Ron Paul. I mean, I agree with a lot of what Ron Paul has to say on the economy and the amount of cuts that we have to make and some reforms, certainly reforms of the Federal Reserve and other things. So I don't doubt that Ron has got some decent ideas on that front. The problem is he's part of the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party on national security. He wants to completely demilitarize the United States and move all our troops out of -- around the world and create huge vacuums that would be filled by people who do not have our national security interests in mind. And we'd be leaving all of our allies out there to fend for themselves which again would not create a stable world or a stable situation for our country.

SCHIEFFER: And Newt Gingrich?

SANTORUM: And with respect to Newt -- yeah, with respect to Newt I'd just say this, Newt is a friend and someone whom I have a lot of respect for. But we're talking about electing a leader, someone who has a proven track record of going when they're in a leadership position and fighting for the conservative principles that they say they're for.

When I was in the United States Senate leadership, every group from the NRA, the National Rifle Association to the NRA, the National Restaurant Association, from social issues to business issues, national security issues if there is with a conservative agenda item that they wanted to push and get in front of the United States Senate, they came to me on the leadership. I was the guy. I was the conservative guy.

And in case of Newt Gingrich, there was a conservative coup against him three years into his speakership because he wasn't doing those things.

So, look at the record of leadership and you'll see a big difference.

SCHIEFFER: All right. We thank you very much, senator. Thank you so much.

SANTORUM: Thank you.

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