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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript


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CROWLEY: Joining me this morning from Charleston, South Carolina, before he heads off to campaign in Florida, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

Senator, thank you for being with us today.

Let me ask you this you got what we thought was a very powerful endorsement by a group of evangelical leaders who met -- more than 100 of them met in Texas, came out and said Rick Santorum is our guy. You finished 23 points off the lead, which was Newt Gingrich who won. What does that say about the power of the evangelical leadership?

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, you know, we got the endorsement of a broad group of people. Those folks, you know, have organizations and have networks. And you know, we -- we're building on those right now.

You know, South Carolina was, you know, I wouldn't say in the oven and well cooked, but it was pretty well cooked. Newt had done a great job planting his flag here, spending, you know, enormous amount of resources here and doing a very good job in making this his, you know, his make or break state.

I mean, I did the same thing in Iowa. Obviously Governor Romney did the same thing. I mean, these three are early states are the states that are in a sense decided not usually in the last few days but decided through a lot of work and things that are done. It's also Newt's backyard.

So our feeling was that, you know, we needed to do well here. And if you look at, you know, the last few days, we actually -- we actually did surge in the polls. I mean, we were -- we were sitting in fourth or below Ron Paul in most of the polls in the last few days leading up to this, and we had a little bit of a surge at the end.

So we feel pretty good that, you know, we're now going to go on to neutral turf and -- and where it's much more wide open for us to do a lot better and take advantage of that endorsement. CROWLEY: Let me play you something that Newt Gingrich said to a crowd. This was just Saturday, so it was here in Georgia. And something he said while he was campaigning.


GINGRICH: The only practical conservative vote in order to stop a Massachusetts moderate is to go vote for Newt Gingrich.


CROWLEY: So, basically, he's kind of cut you out of his equations, saying you're not electable. He's the only practical vote. Has there been any pressure, tacit or otherwise, on you to get out and what do you make of that statement?

SANTORUM: Absolutely no pressure at all. I think people realize that it's -- Mitt Romney is now no longer the inevitable. Mitt Romney's lost two of the three races he's had to run. He's going through the same thing he went through the last time around, which everybody thought he had the money and he had the organization. But you have to have the ideas. You have to have the track record. You have to have the inspiring vision and message for the country. It's not just about how much money you have and -- you know, and how many people you can pay to help your team.

This is the -- this is the real difference in this race. And so that's why I said to Newt when I talked to him last night, this may be a two-person race, but the two people may be on the phone together. This idea that Mitt Romney is -- you know, is not going to be able to be defeated unless conservatives coalesce, it's objectively false. We had a whole bunch of people in the race beating them in Iowa. We had four people in the race and Newt smoked him here in South Carolina.

So our feeling is that this is a three-person race. And the conservatives are polling better than -- than -- than Governor Romney is. And the real conservative is yet to -- to emerge and that's -- and that's me.

We -- we think we present the best opportunity for conservatives to win.

CROWLEY; Nonetheless, you are now headed to the most diverse, the most populous, the most expensive in terms of media market states that you all have been in before. You are the one going into this with the least amount of money, the least name recognition, and let's give at this point the momentum to Newt Gingrich.

What is your pathway to this nomination?

SANTORUM: Well, first up, I'm not too sure that's the least amount of money. I know Congressman Gingrich's campaign is in a lot of debt right now, which we are not. And, actually, we've been doing a very good job of raising money since Iowa and since we were declared the winner we've even done a better job in raising money. This is, you know, Florida is a tough state for everybody. It's very, very expensive. It's a very short time frame. You know, we'll wait and see how -- how the debates turn out. We'll wait and see how the -- you know, this event here in South Carolina is going to affect the polls.

But, you know, leading into Florida yesterday, we were sitting in second place in Florida.

So we feel like we can go and compete there. But this race isn't going to be over in Florida. It's not going to be over, you know, even in -- I don't think in Super Tuesday. This is going to be a long race. You've got, with the exception of a couple states, proportional delegates, not winner take all states. You have an opportunity for someone like Rick Santorum who's a solid conservative, up against a -- I would agree with Newt a Massachusetts moderate.

But I would disagree with Newt that he's the conservative standard bearer. I mean Newt is the guy that, you know in my opinion is a very high risk candidate. Not only is he wrong on the individual mandate, in other words government-mandated health insurance, which he supported for 20 years, he's wrong on the Wall Street bailout. He was wrong on global warming. He is wrong on the immigration issue. These are probably the four biggest issues the Tea Party has, which is really the conservative base of the Republican Party now. And Newt's just not in the right place on those.

And I think the more focus as we've now gotten down to three serious candidates, the less attractive I think Newt's going to be. And the better alternative we are.

CROWLEY: So your strategy now, actually, would be to go after Newt Gingrich on these issues. Because you -- yes, Romney's been defeated in two of the three states. But, nonetheless, you and Newt Gingrich sort of go after the same pool of voters. So you're going after him?

SANTORUM: Oh, no. This is a three-person race. And we're going to try to state just like I did at the debate the other night in Charleston. We're going to draw a distinction to who's the best person to get the kind of voters we need to win the states that are the states in play in this election.

And the states in play in this election, you need to attract blue-collar Democrats, you need to attract the kind of swing voter, the Reagan Democrat that provided Ronald Reagan with historic wins.

We are absolutely better positioned to do that. I have a track record of doing it. Neither of the other candidates in this race have any track record of attracting those voters. And, by the way, neither of them have a plan in place.

I mean, if you look at Newt Gingrich's plan, it's right out of the Club for Growth and Wall Street, his economic plan. If you look at Mitt Romney's, it's out of the -- you know, the moderate establishment muddle. It's not transformational change. Our plan is really focused on getting the folks that we need to win this election back to work, supporting them and their families. And that's the kind of message that ultimately is going to win this election.

CROWLEY: Let me ask you a question that has cropped up about your economic plan, specifically your tax plan. It was -- the Tax Policy Center took a look at it and said about 81 percent of Americans would get a tax break under it. But by the year 2015, it would lose $900 billion in revenue in a single year. How is that at all doable?

SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you look at these analysis, they said, I think Newt's plan was $850 billion that we would lose in revenue.

SANTORUM: And these are the static, you know, flatter scoring that, if you -- if you do reduce taxes...

CROWLEY: Well, is that acceptable?

SANTORUM: ... people are going to change behavior.

No, well, that's not acceptable, but it's not true.

I mean, you know, economists can run all sorts of models and make -- but it's all based on a bunch of assumptions, a lot -- most of which aren't true.

We think it will create a dynamism in this economy that will grow and create huge amounts of employment gains and see revenues actually skyrocket as a result of a growing and prosperous economy.

And, you know, these -- these economic models, depending on the organization, just don't account for that. We feel confident that our plan will do what's necessary to get this economy going, will reduce the deficit, and in combination with the $5 trillion in spending cuts that I've proposed, a balanced budget amendment, we will -- we will get this budget in balance. We will get federal government smaller, dramatically smaller, and we'll grow this economy.

CROWLEY: Senator Rick Santorum, safe travels to Florida. We will see you down there.

SANTORUM: Thanks so much, Candy.


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