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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: Rick Santorum's presidential campaign says it's raised $3 million in the past week since he came in a very close second in Iowa. And we're told he'll spend at least half of that money on ads in South Carolina. Senator Santorum is hoping for a strong showing if the first southern contest after finishing next to last in New Hampshire last night.

Rick Santorum is joining us from Columbia, South Carolina, right now.

Senator, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.

How do you have to finish in South Carolina to keep on going to Florida. What is your hope?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, our hope is to finish first. That's what we tried to do in Iowa.

We understood when it was not a possibility in New Hampshire, but we felt that we could come down here and compete, and vigorously compete here in South Carolina, and try to repeat that performance of being in the top two or three here in South Carolina. This is just another step in the process for us, but we think we fit South Carolina well. We've got a good team down here, and we're getting a lot of very positive response so far to the message of economic growth, limited government, strong national security experience. And we've got the package that I think that fits well.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich says if Romney wins in South Carolina, in his words, he's probably going to be the nominee. You agree with the former Speaker?

SANTORUM: No, I don't agree with him. You know, I feel like, you know, we need to get this race down to two people. And -- you know, I shouldn't say three, because Ron Paul I don't think is going to drop out. But we need to get it down to two people who can be the nominee, and I'm hopeful that after South Carolina, we can finish strongly here and show the conservatives in this country that they can rally behind somebody who can take on Mitt Romney and successfully, more importantly, take on Barack Obama and win this election with a principled conservative who can make the changes that are necessary in this country after we beat Barack Obama.

So, to me, a win without the kind of change we need in this country is not the win we need. We need to have someone who has got the record of being someone who can make big changes in Washington. And I've done that.

BLITZER: And you don't think Mitt Romney is that man?

SANTORUM: Well, if you look at his record as governor of Massachusetts, it's not someone who was able to lead and make the changes. He governed over doing more of what the left wanted to do.

We've been doing that for a long time in Washington. We don't need anybody else to come and do that. We can put anybody in there.

We need someone who has a record of repealing entitlements, not adding entitlements. We need someone who has a record of standing up and fighting for the family, not someone who's not been successful in doing that.

There's a lot of differences between the two of us that, as this race gets down to two people, that we'll be able to highlight. And hopefully they'll see that we're the stronger candidate, we can make this race about Barack Obama and his failure, as opposed to the problems that Mitt Romney had as he was governor that look a lot like Barack Obama's policies.

BLITZER: I think I read a quote from you saying that Mitt Romney would only be marginally better than President Obama. Is that an accurate quote?

SANTORUM: Well, marginally, you know, it depends on the term. He'll be substantially better on some fronts. Others he won't be -- in my opinion, won't be that much better at all.

So I think we need someone who's got bold ideas and not someone who has, as "The Wall Street Journal" says, timid ideas on the economy. We need big changes, we need someone who is going to be willing to go out and attack that deficit, and drive down the cost of spending, get rid of the regulatory burden that's crushing businesses.

And again, we've got a track record of showing that, and Governor Romney has been, you know, more timid. And we don't need that. We don't need that contrast.

BLITZER: Ron Paul has a new ad that he's put out in South Carolina. I don't know if you've seen it, but it directly goes after you. He's got a lot of money, as you well know, Ron Paul's campaign.

Listen to this.


NARRATOR (voice-over): Santorum promised to stand with workers, then sided with big money union bosses and opposed the Right to Work Act. Santorum promised to fight the special interests, then took the most lobbyist cash in Washington and was named one of the most corrupt members in Congress.


BLITZER: Wow. "One of the most corrupt members in Congress."

Go ahead and respond to Congressman Paul.

SANTORUM: Well, I said this in the debate the other night. I mean, the organization that named me the most corrupt member of Congress is one of these George Soros left-wing organization that names every Republican up for election as one of the most corrupt members of Congress. He starts citing these radical left-wing organizations as his source for this, it's pretty bizarre.

And as far as the right to work issue, I've admitted, you know, when I represented the state of Pennsylvania, it was not a right to work state. And I wasn't going to change the law for Pennsylvania.

As president, I don't represent Pennsylvania, I represent the country, and I believe -- and I said I would sign a right to work law. And it's one thing as a member of Congress when you represent a state and you don't want to change that story, it's another one when you're leading the country and you're doing what you think is best for the country.

BLITZER: You know, I don't know if you're ready how ugly it's going to get over the next 10 days between now and the primary in South Carolina, but even Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, he's going after Mitt Romney, his record as a venture capitalist. He's saying he was a vulture capitalist, and he said this -- listen to Rick Perry.


GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They're just vultures. They're vultures that are sitting out there on the tree limb waiting for the company to get sick. And then they swoop in, they eat the carcass. They leave with that, and they leave the skeleton.


BLITZER: Are you comfortable with that kind of language?

SANTORUM: No. You know, this is -- you know, you have capitalism where you have companies that are takeover opportunities because the management hasn't done a good job at managing the company, and someone comes in and tries to save that company and turn it around. And sometimes you're successful and sometimes you're not.

The idea that Bain Capital, at least from the record I've looked at, has had a lot of success. I mean, they weren't a company that has a long track record of basically destroying companies and selling off the pieces.

You know, they've had some situations where they had failures, but every company does. I mean, I'd hate to sit here and be a defender of Mitt Romney, but to me, this is a defender of capitalism. And I have to say that, you know, this is an attack that's probably not warranted.

There's plenty of Mitt Romney's record as governor of Massachusetts to attack and go after as his not being the best candidate to run against Barack Obama, or necessarily to lead the conservative charge in Washington, D.C., but I don't think going after capitalism and companies that, in many cases, do a public good in saving companies is the way to go about doing that.

BLITZER: Yes. I must say, I've been pretty surprised by the discourse that's unfolding right now, and I suspect it's about to get a whole lot nastier. So get ready, Senator. We'll stay in close touch with you. Good luck.

SANTORUM: Well, this is not my first rodeo, so I've been bucked a few times. I'm looking forward to it.

It's nice to be in the fray, nice to be in the arena. And thank you, Wolf, for putting me on the program. I appreciate it.

And if you want to help, go to We've got a money bob (ph). I had to put the pitch in.

BLITZER: You did, and you did it well. Thank you, Senator. Thanks very much.


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