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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: And joining us now from Miami, Senator Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania.

Senator, thanks so much for coming in on this day after our debate. You know, you -- you're getting strong reviews from the debate. You're probably getting a surge here in Florida, which raises the question, are you still going to take a day off, go back home to Pittsburgh to deal with your taxes?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, I have actually set up two fundraisers, so the answer is: yes, we're going to do that. We set up a fundraiser for later tonight and one for tomorrow late afternoon. And then we're going to come back here tomorrow night. So, we're really only going to be gone for less than 24 hours and we've got two pretty good fundraisers we're doing and that's a positive thing.

And plus, you know, I am getting a little heat for not having released my taxes. I'm happy to do it, but I don't have an accountant, I do my own taxes on my own computer. And I just felt like I need to do that, get them, turn them around and get them out, so that issues behind it. So, I don't keep getting that question and getting that distraction.

We're going to be here. We got a full day Sunday. We got a good day Monday, and we're going to run it to the very end. We feel very, very good about how things are going here in Florida. A great reaction here in south Florida.

BLITZER: Because, you know, a lot of the pundits here in Florida think you basically have given up on the state because they don't see you advertising, either your campaign or your super PAC. Are you doing any paid advertising in Florida?

SANTORUM: We're not doing -- I don't know if we're not doing any. We maybe -- I know we're doing some things that, you know, I don't know if you call it paid advertising, you know, calls and some mailing and things like that to targeted groups.

Look, I've said before, we just, in many respects from a financial point of view, are just really have gotten our sea legs in the last few weeks. And we're doing very, very well. But we're not at the point -- we're raising a lot of money right now, multiples more than we've raised before. We've actually raised over two times as much money in the last 3 1/2 weeks than we did in the first nine months of the campaign.

So, we're doing great, and we -- but we're in this for the long haul. We weren't going to go out and spend every dime in a huge state like Florida when we've got other states that, you know, we feel we can do well in. And we've got a great grassroots organization here in Florida, we got a lot of excited people working hard.

And you know what's been moving the numbers more than the TV advertisements are, you know, candidates' ideas and the debates. We think the debate will move a lot of folks. I'll tell you, I've heard a ton of positive feedback of folks coming our way, and our phones ringing off the hook, our Web site is buzzing like crazy all from Florida. So we feel very good, we're going to surprise some people come Tuesday.

BLITZER: But, you know, and you know this, obviously, Florida's a winner take all state, 50 delegates at stake. So if you don't win the state, you're not going to get any delegates. Ron Paul for all practical purposes is gone from Florida, as well and I want to be precise. Do you think you can still win here in Florida?

SANTORUM: Well, this was a winner take all state unless it's not. And you know the rules state if there is a -- if it's contested at convention, Florida won't be a winner take all state and it'll go by congressional district.

So we've been going around and campaigning very hard in certain areas of the state that we think we can particularly well in congressional districts. We've got our operation focused in on those areas of the state.

And we're working very hard in those areas that we think we might be able to pull some delegates if this thing goes to the convention. And the more and more I look at this, the more and more I think it's likely that this race is going to go on a long time.

And those few delegates that we might be able to pull out of here in Florida, even if we don't win, might be very, very important for us.

BLITZER: OK. You're staying in this race. You have no plans to drop out, right?

SANTORUM: If I can just, you know, say it -- I'm not someone who does a lot of absolute statements, but I will make an absolute statement. There hasn't even been a discussion, and not even approaching a discussion to discuss a discussion as to whether we'll get out of this race.

We're in this race. We're hiring people for states -- for March and April. I really believe that we're going to -- our campaign's going to be alive and well for a long, long time. I believe we're going to win this. I have no doubt in my mind that when the Republicans take a look at who is the viable, the best conservative to run against Barack Obama, that it's going to end up being me.

And we're going to have to fight through that for the next few weeks, but I think what you saw last night, what you're going to see here in Florida, what you're going to see in the weeks ahead, you're going to see this race change again.

And it's going to be an opportunity for us to be able to rise and be the -- be the conservative that folks have been looking for in this race.

BLITZER: Pretty definitive statement. Senator Santorum, when I was on the stage with you last night, at the beginning, I sensed you were trying to stay above the fray, but -- and I said to myself, well, maybe he's looking for -- to be a vice presidential running mate or something like that.

But you quickly dispelled that when you went directly after both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich on health care. And you had this exchange. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: Governor Romney was the author of Romneycare, which is a top-down government-run health care system, which read an article today has 15 different items directly in common with Obamacare.

Congressman Gingrich for 20 years advocated that the federal government can force each and every person to enter into a private contract. We cannot give the issue of health care away in this election. It is too foundational for us to win this election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Am I wrong, Senator Santorum, in saying you're all in right now. You're not thinking about a cabinet position, a vice presidential running mate position. You're in this to win, and even if it means getting really tough with Gingrich and Romney?

SANTORUM: I think the best thing I can do for the cause that I believe in and for our country is to go out there and talk about the issues. I don't think anyone can walk away from last night saying Rick Santorum was dirty, Rick Santorum was, you know, was someone who was hitting below the belt.

I was talking about the important issues of our country. I was talking about principles that we need to stand behind as conservatives to contrast ourselves with Barack Obama. That's been my purpose of being in this race from the very, very beginning.

It's to be that person who is the best person to go up against Barack Obama. And yes, I will take on Speaker Gingrich and Ron Paul and Mitt Romney, I have no desire to be anything and anybody's cabinet or anything else.

I'm not doing this to -- making the sacrifice and my wife and kids aren't making the sacrifice to do anything, but to be the president of the United States.

BLITZER: Senator Santorum, thanks very much for coming in.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Wolf, and I appreciate it. And just for the record so people can hear. My daughter who was with me last night went up to you and said you are her favorite moderator for the debates. I want to put that on record so everyone knows -- at least some members of the Santorum family think you did a pretty good job.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. And by the way, I loved meeting your 93-year-old mother, as well.

SANTORUM: Isn't she great? She's become a little bit of a -- a little bit of a sensation on the internet now. We're actually -- we're looking to get her a Twitter account so she can start communicating with some of her fans.

BLITZER: If you do that, she'll be trending on Twitter sooner rather than later. All right, Senator Santorum, once again, thank you.

SANTORUM: All right.

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