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Rick Santorum Explains How A Ground Game Works In Iowa

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The audio:

01-11hhs-santorum

The transcript:

HH: David Bowie no longer with us on this planet. He’s gone to his great reward. I have a sense that Rick Santorum, presidential candidate in Iowa, is actually a David Bowie fan, because he’s the right age. Am I correct about that, Rick Santorum?

RS: Yeah, I did like some of David Bowie’s music, as a matter of fact.

HH: See, I knew that. I knew that.

RS: Including the song that you just entered with in there. That’s a pretty cool song.

HH: Yeah, it’s too bad. I wrote this morning we are now of the age where people who are your age, and I’m a little older than you, we start waking up, and the people whose dance tunes we danced to in high school are dying, and that’s not a good thing.

RS: Are no longer with us, yeah.

HH: No longer with us.

RS: Yeah, they lived a little rougher life than you or me.

HH: Rick Santorum, you are still very much with us. And as I was in the green room on ABC’s This Week yesterday, I was talking about how loyalty sometimes trumps everything in Iowa. How is your organization in Iowa faring, because not a lot of people are paying much attention to the man who won the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

RS: Well, there’s good news and bad news about that. The good news about it is expectations are really low. And as you know, Hugh, in politics, and primaries in particular, succeeding expectations is almost as important as winning and losing. And so we have really low expectations, which is a positive for us. And the bad news is that obviously when your expectations are low, you’ve got a little tougher job going out to visit people. I’m sitting here at a Hardee’s in Orange City, Iowa, and talking to a bunch of folks here, and you know, we’re having some good success in going through and talking about other candidates. And I was at a house party in Sac City and had a hundred people there. And we’re signing up our caucus captains. We’re actually ahead of our pace in signing up caucus captains, people who will go to the caucus and speak on our behalf, from where we were four years ago. So we’re, you know, we’re just out here, I’m here every day, just building out the network. And I think we’re going to see another surprise again. I have no doubt that we’re going to start, in the next week or two, start creeping up a little bit and get that momentum when it matters.

HH: Now Rick Santorum, I made the argument yesterday, and you can elaborate on it or tell me that it’s dead wrong, that in Iowa, it matters a lot that you be personally liked, and that believe it or not, you’re a Steelers’ fan, sorry about yesterday, you should have been eliminated…

RS: Now it was two days ago, but no, I was.

HH: …but that people like you. Go ahead.

RS: Yes, personal, look, Iowa is hand to hand combat. I mean, I was here with a dozen guys at a Hardee’s talking, and having a little bit of a jabber, you know, just a little fun with everybody. And it’s not just talking about issues. It’s also sort of just having, just sort of building a little bit of rapport and relationship. And you don’t do that when you speak to a thousand people, or even a few hundred people, and then you give your speech and answer a question or two and walk off. I mean, we’re doing house parties. We’re doing, you know, events where there’s relationships built, and there’s a connection made. I told a story, I’ll tell you a story of what happened just four days ago in Missouri Valley, which is in the western part of Iowa near Omaha. And I was at a Pizza Ranch. We had a dozen people there talking about helping us out there in Harrison County, and a woman raised her hand and said you know, I was a caucus captain for you four years ago, and you know, I went there, and you gave me a little sheet to read, and I walked in, and there were people for this candidate and that candidate, and so when they asked people if there was anybody there to speak, it was just you and Mitt Romney were the only two people that had people represented there. And I got up and read what you, and the I talked about meeting you and talking to you, and I got a little emotional, because I really like you. And in the end, you got every vote but one if the room.

HH: Huh.

RS: And I just share that with you that it’s a much more dynamic process that people just showing up. It’s not New Hampshire. People don’t just show up and vote throughout the day. They go to a caucus, they talk to their neighbors, and if you’ve had that presence and you develop those relationships, it matters.

HH: Now explain to someone, I’ve just added affiliates, for example, in West Virginia and in Kentucky who have never been to an Iowa Caucus, how it actually works.

RS: Well, you show up at 7:00 at night on February 1st, which is Monday night, and you check in at the table. You have to be a registered Republican in order to vote. You go into a room, and sometimes, it’s somebody’s home. Sometimes, it’s a church. Sometimes, it’s a school building. Sometimes, it’s a business. I mean, they have them all over the place. And depending on the size of the place, and you walk in, and you talk to your friends and neighbors. You sit and they go through some party business. And then they ask the candidates if they have anybody that’s representing a particular candidate. They get up and they get five minutes to talk and give their pitch as to why their candidate should be picked, and then people vote. And you vote. You have a piece of paper and you just write a name on a piece of paper. It’s not a ballot. I mean, you can vote for whoever you want to vote for. And it’s a very dynamic process. About a third, a little over a third of the votes we got in 2012, people decided at the caucus. And so you’ll see a lot of late deciders in this race, and that’s why we have a lot of hope that we have a chance to catch a little lightning in a bottle again.

HH: And what time Monday night will we begin to know who’s doing what?

RS: Eastern time, I’d say about 9:00, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how things are trending. And four years ago, as you know, we went until about 2:00 in the morning until, because it was an eight vote difference in the end. I hope it doesn’t go that way this time, but we’ll wait and see. It can be very close.

HH: Now how much has Donald Trump changed the rules when it comes to civility or brashness or bluntness, Rick Santorum?

RS: The answer is we don’t know, and the reason we don’t know is because nobody’s voted, yet. I keep telling that to every audience I can talk to here in Iowa. You know, all these polls and all these pundits, and all these things that are covering Donald Trump because, let’s be honest the media is a business. Donald Trump attracts eyeballs, and so it’s great to talk about Donald Trump, because people will watch your show, and people will read your papers. And the folks in this country need to realize what’s going on, that you know, Trump is a really fascinating guy and he’s entertaining, and you’re right, he’s been very aggressive. And that sells. And that’s why he’s getting a lot of the coverage he has. Now the question is, does that turn into votes? And I don’t know the answer to that, and we won’t know the answer to that until February 1st. and what I’m counting on is that the traditional way of going around and talking to Iowans, and answering their questions, and giving them confidence that you can actually be president of the United States is going to, in the end, be a secret billet for us.

HH: Now there are two things I want you to comment on. On ABC yesterday, I got a little heated with Tavis Smiley and Donna Brazille, and they’re friends, but they called Trump a racist. He is not a racist.

RS: He is not.

HH: What he is, is he’s blunt about issues. And we didn’t talk about the fact that North Korea exploded what might have been a nuclear weapon. And so I’m so upset with this race, we’re not talking about, Rick Santorum, the fact that we’re on the edge of a cataclysm.

RS: You know, the most important issue, I can tell you, out here in Iowa, I hear it over and over again, it’s national security and what we’re going to do. They know this president’s not going to keep us safe. I get more questions on gun control than I have ever gotten in any race in my entire political career, because are afraid…

HH: Huh.

RS: People want to at least know they have access to a gun, and that the government isn’t going to take their gun, because they believe they need to start defending themselves, because they have a government that’s not going to defend them and fight the forces that are going to come, probably, to their community. I mean, ISIS is not al Qaeda. ISIS is telling people to attack wherever you are. They’re not putting together big plots to attack the World Trade Center. They’re telling individual radicals to go out into their community and start killing people and attacking the police or whatever the case may be. That is worrying people legitimately in this country. And you’re right, we’re not having this conversation. But I can tell you, in Iowa, they are. And I keep coming back to, you know, now that Iowans are really starting to pay attention, I can tell you, my, the attendance at my events are gearing up. Like I said, I had a hundred people at a house party last night. That’s the biggest one I’ve had so far. And I had 75 the night before. And you know, we’ve got one in Cedar Rapids tonight, and I think two tonight in that area, and I’m told they’re going to be largely-attended, too. So that’s the kind of time where you have to start locking into people. And you know, I’ve been to Hardee’s. I’m here at a Hardee’s. And you know, I’ve been to Hardee’s and getting around and talking to folks before, but I’ve never had people so engaged as I’ve had this morning, because they’re starting to think about it. They’re starting to make decisions. And that’s what people don’t understand, is that this is a process, and now it’s get serious time.

HH: Hey, last question, Rick Santorum, I’m in Washington, D.C. today. I was over at the Post earlier this morning, talking about a piece by Justin Jouvenal, the title of which is “The New Way Police Are Surveilling You: Calculating Your Threat Score”. It’s a fascinating piece about how social media allows, and credit bureaus, and all sorts of different things, allows law enforcement to estimate the threat level of an individual simply by using big data. Does that alarm you? Or does that inspire you?

RS: Actually, it inspires me, because probably a lot less, a lot fewer mistakes are going to happen. The fact of the matter is that commercial entities have all sorts of information about you and your buying habits and viewing habits, and everything else. It’s out there. It’s out there in the commercial world, and the commercial world uses it to tailor their approach to you. Well, why shouldn’t the government have the same data? It’s out there, and so they can tailor their approach to you. And when they show up at your home, if they get a call, that they might know hey, this guy isn’t some crazy wacko, or this guy is. Look at the stuff that he’s participated in. This is a guy that we need to be more cautious with. So fewer mistakes happen.

HH: Excellent, excellent analysis, great piece. If you have a chance on the campaign trail, give it a look Rick Santorum, Justin Jouvenal on the front page of the Post. Good luck, we’ll check in with Rick Santorum, former Pennsylvania, Steelers fan, as we get closer to Iowa.

End of interview.

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