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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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And here with us again this morning from the campaign trail in Mississippi is Rick Santorum. Senator, welcome back.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It's great to be back, David. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Look, you want your shot to go one-on-one with Governor Romney. So what tips the scales to get Newt Gingrich out of the race?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I don't know. You'd have to ask him. I mean, we just going to keep on winning and competing. You know, ever since Nevada we finished first or second in almost every state. I think we came close. Congressman Paul and I were sort of tied in a couple of states. But, you know, we've been, we've been there. And other than Georgia, Congressman Gingrich has finished even third and fourth and that's--that continued yesterday. And, you know, eventually this thing is going to sort out and hopefully we'll have strong, strong perform--performances in Mississippi here and in Alabama and I've even sent my daughter out to Hawaii. I know it was tough duty, but she did it and she's out there campaigning for us for this Tuesday.

MR. GREGORY: If you can blank him down in Alabama and Mississippi would you like to see him get out at that point?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, you know, David, I'd like everybody to get out. I mean, that'd be great if they could just clear the field. But, you know, Congressman Gingrich can stay in, the speaker can stay in as long as, as long as he wants. But I think the, the better opportunity to, to make sure that we nominate a conservative is to, is to give us an opportunity to go head-to-head with, with Governor Romney at some point and hopefully that, that will occur sooner rather than later, but we'll wait and see what the speaker decides.

MR. GREGORY: Well, let's talk about Governor Romney. He's making the argument that the math is essentially the momentum. Our own political unit did some of that map and figured that you need 61 percent of the remaining delegates ultimately to win this thing. Aside from the fact that nobody has the, the requisite number of delegates yet, why shouldn't this race effectively be considered over and done with, advantage Romney?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, Romney needs about 50 percent of the delegates to be able--and if he--you know, on the current track that we're on right now the fact is if Governor Romney doesn't get to that number. So the idea that you just make projections. I mean, this isn't a mathematical formula. This race has a tremendous amount of dynamics and, you know, we've got a lot of states coming up that are great--they're going to be great states for us. States like Pennsylvania where, you know, we got 72 delegates that we should win if not all of them, the vast majority of them. Texas. Last poll in Texas had me up 30 points. You know, we're, we're doing very, very well in a lot of the states.

People will remember that Governor Romney's been doing this for four years and he worked very hard to make sure that states moved up that were very advantageous to him. That's A. B, there are a lot of these states that as you know, David, the news agency apportion delegates that have nothing to do with the reality of where the delegates are going to be. I'll give you Iowa, for example. You know, we barely won Iowa by 34 votes, but they had their conventions yesterday. We're going to win the vast majority of delegates in the state of Iowa, but nobody has that in their count. They have us winning by one vote. That's not going to be the case when the delegates from these caucuses are actually elected. These numbers are going to change dramatically. And as you also know, a lot of these delegates are uncommitted.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: And so while they may have be--you know, they may be, you know, for quote--the state may be for Romney, a lot of these delegates go in and they're unbound. And that's another dynamic. You have a whole bunch of superdelegates. Again, Governor Romney has secured several of them, but they're not bound with their, with their commitment. These are the kinds of things that happen when they can change as the dynamic of this race changes as we go on.

MR. GREGORY: But if you look at the map so far, where the victories have been, you have to notice something that's striking. You're in green on this map, or rather in yellow on this map. You're winning kind of the heartland of the country right now. It's almost like a presidential red/blue map. You've got Governor Romney winning the coasts, New England, and he's winning the West with the help of Mormon voters. How do you change that dynamic, including the fact that Governor Romney can say, rightly, "Look, I've won some of the biggest battlegrounds for the fall, Florida and Ohio." How do you overcome that?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I mean, you know, obviously, you know, we've had, we've had to overcome a lot, David, just to be where we are now. I mean, we've been outspent about 10-to-1 and that's fine. But it--in someone who's outspent 10-to-1 who was--has all the establishment behind him, you know, is, you know, all this, quote, wind to his back, yet he can't close the deal, you know, winning Ohio, winning Michigan by the skin of his teeth, both being outspent overwhelmingly, but you know what? That's OK, we've got the grassroots support. We have--we, you know, we--we've been slowly crawling out way back--clawing our way back into this race and, you know, we're in a--we're in a great position right now as we go forward with states that are very favorable to us, in, in favorable areas of the country. I've got my home state yet to go. I mean, Governor Romney's had about three of his home states already. So it's, it's important for us to, to look to the future and see the opportunities we have. That's how we get, we get, we get back in this race. And if we can get a one-on-one. We've seen in the states where we've had one-on-ones we've done very well.

MR. GREGORY: So why not just out and say what your super PAC said, and that is that you want Gingrich out?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, you know, that's not, that's not my--I'm not going to tell people to get in and out of this--I didn't ask Speaker Gingrich to get in, I'm not going to ask him to get out.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Let's talk about some of the issues and I want to start with jobs. New jobs numbers out on Friday. Certainly an advantage for the president who's making the case about economic recovery. This is how the AP put it in its analysis of the report. "The United States added 227,000 jobs in February, again surprising economists with the breadth and brawn of the economic recovery. The country has put together the strongest three months of pure job growth since the Great Recession." And this is those numbers. If you take a look since December of job creation, the pure number of jobs, it's at 734,000 jobs. Is your point in this campaign to say "I can do a better job of accelerating that recovery," and if so, how?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, absolutely we can do a better job. I mean, just, just look on the energy sector alone, the jobs that can be created by, you know, building the Keystone pipeline, for allowing for exploration of, off oil in this country. And there's 600 billion barrels of oil offshore that this president has basically has said no to. The federal lands, no; Alaska, no. I mean, the only place he's allowing drilling and providing help is to Brazil, which of course the Brazilians rejected. So this is, this is a no energy policy on this president's part. And, of course, it's having--it's going to have headwinds as we head into the summer driving season. We're already looking at $4 a gallon gasoline in a lot of places. And that has without question an impact on this economy. So you look at the--just energy alone, throw on top of that the implementation of Obamacare and regulations and other types of high-cost regulations, this president has set a record in the number of high-cost regulations.

What I've said on day one, I'll repeal every one of those regulations that cost of $100 million. The House of Representatives said repeatedly week after week trying to repeal a lot of these regulations that are damaging business and will over the long haul. So there's a variety of things that the president is doing right now to hurt the economy that we could immediately turn around and put a lot of wind at the back of this economy and see real dynamic growth and sustainable growth. I think most of the economists will tell you that the growth that--under this president, while it's been good certainly the last three, three months from the standpoint of employment, but the over--underlying growth numbers... are not going to support a dramatic job growth...


FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: ...until we get that underlying growth number turned around.

MR. GREGORY: But Senator, you can't tell Americans who are feeling more economic--more optimistic, I should say, about their economic prospects if their eyes are deceiving them. And when it comes to gas prices, sure, that hurts everybody. But also Americans know that it's Republicans, just like Democrats, who have failed to provide the leadership to get any kind of energy plan for this country passed and that's been going on for decades.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, David, you know, as someone who's been voting to open up a lot of areas for exploration and have been repeatedly stopped by the radical environmental movement, now led by President Obama, it's, you know, it's, it's hard to point the finger at Republicans. Republicans have voted yes, yes, yes all the time and certainly I have and the president has voted no. So the idea of, well, you can't fix the partisan gridlock. There's not partisan gridlock. There's a radical ideology of environmentalism that says let's drill for oil in Saudi Arabia, let's drill for it in Brazil, but don't drill for it in my backyard. This is, this is pure politics. It has nothing to do with what's best for the overall environment. It certainly has nothing to do with the national security of our country by being more dependant upon very dangerous areas of the world that allow the speculative price for oil to go up. All of this is the president's fault. It lays clearly on his table.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you as well about some other issues and when you take on Governor Romney. You know, your record, which has been debated as senator, you cast votes, of course, for a new entitlement under Medicare, prescription drug benefit. You were a supporter of earmarks, which a lot of people think is reckless spending of federal money. You, you supported No Child Left Behind, an expansion of accountability in national education reform movement, and yet you say this about Governor Romney. You said it during a conference call this week. I'll put it on the screen. "What you have with Governor Romney is someone who is simply not the genuine article. He's not someone you can trust on the issue of big government." Yet you cast some votes that conservatives would clearly see as big government.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, I would just say this about, about the programs that you put forward. The--all of those programs were--certainly the earmark, were within the context of spending on appropriation bills where I never, ever voted for an increase in spending on any of those appropriation bills. In fact, I was out on the floor castigating Republicans and Democrats who were voting for increase in spending. So I voted always to cut spending, repeatedly, consistently, throughout my 16 years.

On Medicare prescription drugs, there were a lot of things in that Medicare prescription drugs, especially health savings accounts, which is a private sector reform of the healthcare system, which I believe was the most dynamic thing we could do. And I still believe it's the most dynamic thing we can do to help lower healthcare costs and put patients back in control. We had private sector Medicare reform in that prescription drug bill. And of course the prescription drug bill itself has come in 42 percent under budget because it's a private sector model. So while, while certainly there was a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it was done in a way that advanced the private sector medicine and that's one of the reasons that, that I supported it. Unlike Governor Romney, who had public sector control of the healthcare system. The bills I voted for were private sector-oriented programs.

Governor Romney and Barack Obama are exactly the same place on health care. Romneycare, Obamacare, the same, with a top-down government control of the resources, mandates and of course, now we know, thanks to--you know, an interview that you did and others--that Governor Romney actually advocated for the Massachusetts model that President Obama adopt, with mandates, and then went out on the campaign trail and repeatedly--well, he repeatedly told--didn't tell the truth. He went out and misled voters that somehow or another he was not for mandates at the federal level when, in fact, he was. He went out and said, "Oh, no, I didn't require Catholic hospitals to provide things that were against their conscience," when, in fact, he did. He said, "Oh, I didn't provide free abortions under Romneycare," when in fact he did for some. So he's repeatedly had big government solutions and then gone out and told the public, bald face, that he didn't do the things that he did.

MR. GREGORY: You're calling him a liar. You're saying that he's lying about his position, that he doesn't support an individual mandate at the federal level.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Which he did.

MR. GREGORY: He did support it.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: He did support an individual mandate. Absolutely and repeatedly in op-eds and on your program.

MR. GREGORY: You know, electability becomes a big issue if you look at the polling. Romney is closer to President Obama in the polls now than you are. On health care, what is the line of attack you think that President Obama will use against Romney that you think will ultimately kill Romney's chances of being president?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: You know, why are you complaining about--why do you say you want to repeal a program that's identical to the program you put in place in Massachusetts and you advocated for me to do? And, and they will play back the clips from MEET THE PRESS. They will play back the are--the op-eds that he wrote to advocate for this. And that, that is--that just takes an issue that is the most potent issue in the 2010 election. The reason Republicans were able to sweep back into the control of the House of Representatives and make gains in the Senate and governorships is because we had an issue that talked about freedom, talked about whether government should be controlling your healthcare choices, should be allocating resources in the healthcare field, or whether we're going to believe in free markets and free people and choices and consumers. And Governor Romney and the state of Massachusetts mandated every person in Massachusetts to have to buy health care. He doesn't tell the truth about that, either. He said, "Oh, it's only the 8 percent that didn't have insurance." That is simply not true. And he continues to go out there and tries to misrepresent what he did in Massachusetts because it's not popular.

It's what he's doing with climate change. He was for climate change, man-made global warming. He put caps on CO2. And now that it's not popular, now that the climate change--guess who changed the law with it? Governor Romney. And well, you're looking at someone here who doesn't change with the climate. I stand for the principles that made this country great, limited government, free people, building a great society from the bottom up, not Governor Romney's top-down control that will not make the kind of contrast with Barack Obama that we absolutely need if we're going to win this election.

MR. GREGORY: Senator, I want to ask you about the influence of your wife. I know I'm heavily influenced by mine. And you've talked about the influence that she's had on you in the course of this campaign.


MR. GREGORY: Recently, as, as it applies to the kind of language you use, you've backed away a bit from calling the president a snob or, or criticism of President Kennedy.


MR. GREGORY: What kind of political partner is she for you and how is that manifested itself here in the last couple of weeks?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: She is--she's very direct. We have a wonderful, very, very special relationship and she is, she, she watches everything I do like a hawk and she is, you know, look, she's a nurse, she's a lawyer, she's--she knows, she knows how to, how to, how to communicate. And she also is a very, very compassionate person. And I think she's--she understands that sometimes I can get, I can get fired up, as she can, too. And you know, get--sometimes step over the line and I think she, she rightly comes after me and says, you know, Rick, you've got to, you've got to go back and walk this back. That's--that, you know, you get a little fired up and you shouldn't say things that, you know, maybe, again, you, you said, you know, calling governor a liar, Romney a liar. No, I'm not. I'm saying in this case he didn't, didn't say what was the truth. But then to go one step further and say that the person is a liar is, is too far and that was the case with respect to President Obama and that comment. And, you know, she's, she's a very good governor for me. She, she, she made sure that I try to keep things in perspective.

MR. GREGORY: What about the broader influences on you? As people size you up, get to know you a little bit better, what or who would you say is the biggest influence on you in the full range of your public life and your sense of purpose, getting into the race and running for Congress and ultimately the Senate?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, well, I mean, obviously, you know, family is always a big consideration. It certainly was in getting into this race. Karen and I, you know, this was not something, you know, I'm 53 years old, I've been in public life for 16 years. Most of my, you know, working career I was, I was in the Senate. And you know, to get back into that after being out for five years and having a lot more freedom and opportunity and a lot more time to be with my wife and family. I coached Little League for three years and was doing a lot more stuff frankly in a public life you just don't have time for. And, and it was a hard decision for us. And you know, we prayed about it a lot and you know, sought--you know, was this the right path for us? And we just felt very strongly, and particularly because of this issue of Obamacare and government control of people's lives. And I just felt like this was a game-changer for America and you know, we have a special needs little girl and that, that weighed both ways, to be very honest with you. I want to be home with her because her life is so fragile, but at the same time, I felt like you had to go out and fight for these little children who, you know, in the margins of society, in a government-run healthcare system around the world, they aren't given quite the care and resources allocated because, you know, the government may not see them as useful lives. And so there was a lot of cross currents here and, and Karen and I sort of sorted through and prayed about it and made the decision that it was, that it was appropriate for us to step forward and, and try to, you know, lay out a different vision for this country that we didn't believe anybody else in the race could do.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Senator, before you go, are you looking at a clean sweep, do you think on Tuesday in the South?

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Well, it's pretty tough battleground down there. I mean, I'm in Newt's backyard. And of course, you know, they've got--you know, Mitt, Mitt and the establishment. We're out there running the insurgent campaign and we feel good. I mean, all the polls shows us within striking, striking distance and so we're working here in Mississippi. Karen and I are here today and we'll be in Alabama tomorrow and we're just going to hustle.

MR. GREGORY: We'll be watching. As always, thanks for coming on the program.

FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Thank you, David.


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