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CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

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GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hi, Anderson. I'm standing here with part of team Santorum, who came here to cheer the senator on this evening. Let me ask you the first question, senator, which is how did it feel to be the center of attention tonight?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It was great. I enjoyed it a lot. I mean, it was -- you know, you fight for that real estate. And now you have the opportunity. And you know, I felt like with Ron on one side and Mitt on the other, they were smacking back and forth a little bit.

But that's part of the process. I think we laid out our vision for the country and why we're the best to take on President Obama and the best person to make the kind of change that is necessary in Washington.

BORGER: I have to tell you, senator, that at a couple points, it got quite heated between you and Governor Romney, when you're talking about earmarks. And essentially, you seemed to be calling Governor Romney a hypocrite. Was a reading that right when it comes to earmarks?

SANTORUM: Well, when someone criticizes you for earmarks and then goes out and -- at the same time that I was earmarking, goes out and says I want those earmarks, and goes to Washington, D.C. and asks for them, and then says, we should have a process on how we spend money, and he describes the process about how we did actually do earmarks -- I think the governor is just misinformed.

And he's making points that just simply fall flat.

BORGER: So am I right, hypocrite?

SANTORUM: I don't like to call people names, but I think the governor's accusations are completely wrong, false.

BORGER: You also seemed to get some negative audience reaction here this evening when you suggested that Governor Romney would be incapable of taking on Barack Obama on the health care issue because of his health care reform plan in Massachusetts. You say that a lot in the campaign.

SANTORUM: I do. Usually get a very good reaction. This was -- I think this was a pretty favorable Romney crowd, from what I could tell, but that's OK. We're -- we're in a place that he's going to do very, very well, here in Mesa.

But look, I think it does take the issue of health care off the table. I mean, President Obama is going to turn around and say, what are you criticizing me for? I mean, this is your plan. In fact, in some respects, your plant is to the left of mine.

As I mentioned, Governor Romney's plan makes every small businesses of over 10 employees cover people with health care, as opposed to President Obama's, over 50. So, in some cases, his plan is actually more onerous on business.

BORGER: What do you say to those Republicans who say that you are spending way too much time talking about divisive cultural issues, that they don't want to get into a culture war, and that, if you're the nominee, this would doom you with women voters and in fact with independent voters?

And you know those voices are coming from pretty high places in Washington.

SANTORUM: Well, actually, the Gallup poll says we're leading among women and we're doing well.

People care about families. People care about what is happening to our society. But I do get these questions, as John King tried to do on contraception and other things, that are sort of outrageous types of questions, and then the next question from the reporter is, why are you talking so much about social issues?

So, they ask and then they say, oh, but you're talking about social issues all the time.

Look, I understand the game. And we're just going to go out and continue to stay on message about what we're going to do to make this country more prosperous, build up a strong foundation of our country, which clearly is -- as I talked about before, we have got to do something to help strengthen the American family. And I'm going to continue to talk about those things.

BORGER: OK, Senator, thanks very much.

SANTORUM: Thanks, Gloria.

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