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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

Rick Santorum On Electability, GM, Contraception and Afghanistan

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UPDATE: Worst news of the day for Senator Santorum is the announcement by the Kos Kids that they are throwing themselves into the pro-Rick effort in the next few states in order to weaken Romney. That is a worse blow than MI Governor Snyder’s endorsement of Romney. The best thing to happen to Romney is to be identified as the president’s strongest challenger by the president’s looniest lefty supporters.

Rick Santorum opened today’s show in a wide ranging interview about his electability advantages over Mitt Romney –he thinks he wins PA, OH and MI in the general– GM/Chrysler, bankruptcy authority for states, Michael Sherer’s post at Time’s Swampland blog on his views on contraception, and on Afghanistan.

The transcript:

HH: We begin with presidential candidate and former United States Senate from Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum. Senator, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to have you.

RS: Well, thank you, Hugh. It’s great doing our weekly call. I enjoy doing it.

HH: I do, and you know, I’ve told people that one of the reasons I think you have really connected with the Republican electorate is that you have been accessible not just to this show, but basically in any platform, any time, any question, Rick Santorum. You think that’s part of your surge?

RS: Well, you know, I’ve always believed that you as a public official running for public office have to be accountable to the people that you’re asking the vote for. And that means town hall meetings. We’ve done well over 800 of them. I just did one a few minutes ago in Tioga, North Dakota. I’m going to be doing one in a few minutes in Fargo, and in some cases, a handful of people, and in the last few weeks, it’s been more like a few thousand people. Even the occupiers, you know, come to some of these meetings and have their screaming matches. So that’s just what I think is part of the process of running for president. And these sort of sanitized events where you’ve got structured crowds and nobody asks questions, I just think turns people off. [# More #]

HH: I have also always been careful to tell people they can go to www.ricksantorum.com to contribute. Do those contributions continue to flow in, Rick?

RS: Yeah, we’ve raised about $5 million dollars already in the month of February. It’s been amazing. We’ve raised almost $4 million in the week after Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. So we’ve had a great run here, and we continue to do well. I think people are excited that they can have someone that, you know, they can be excited about, someone that is not settling for something that we can hopefully beat Obama with because we’re running someone who is a little bit more moderate and get independent voters, that now they’re seeing that someone who actually presents a clear contrast and can make Barack Obama the issue in the campaign is actually a better way to go.

HH: Now contrasted with your accessibility has been the argument on Mitt Romney’s side about electability. So I spent yesterday asking callers, I want to ask you. What states would you win in the fall that Romney couldn’t win?

TS: Well, I’ll start with Pennsylvania. I feel very good about Pennsylvania and Ohio, Michigan. And just go through those sort of industrial heartland states right now. I think we’ve got a strong appeal to the kind of voters that Ronald Reagan was able to put together to win those states. And I’m confident you win those three states, I won’t say it doesn’t matter what happens to the rest of the country, but if you’re going to win those three states, you’re going to probably win all the other sort of base Republican states that you need, and you’re probably in a position where you’re going to win the general election. So I just keep coming back to the coalition that Ronald Reagan was able to put together. And when you win those three states, there’s probably a whole bunch of other states you’re going to do very well in, too, that might not make this race particularly close.

HH: And would you be better, or would Romney be better for down ticket races?

RS: Well, I think down ticket races are really driven by enthusiasm of your base, and how many folks turn out. As you know, there’s always a drop off from the top of the ticket to down ballot races, and the drop off is almost always independent voters. And so the key is making sure that your base is excited, because they come out and they vote for the entire ticket. They, in many cases, vote straight ticket. So when you have an election where someone wins because they’ve been able to get enough independents but the base isn’t particularly excited, they tend to be very rather lowly victories, where you can rally and get people excited. That’s when the down ballot races really start to pay off.

HH: Now Rick Santorum, I’m talking with Larry Sabato a little bit later today, and Scott Rasmussen about electoral procedure. I’m going to get to some serious substance stuff in just a second. And Reagan Democrats come up a lot, but the reality is, to be blunt, a lot of Reagan Democrats are dead. They were older, white, working people in 1980, and they’ve gone to their reward as the former president as well. In demographic terms, where is Rick Santorum stronger than Mitt Romney?

RS: Well, I mean, you know, I think we have appeal to all…when you say Reagan Democrats, I don’t mean people who actually voted for Ronald Reagan. I’m talking about people that fit that profile today, which are folks who are working Americans, folks who are blue collar Americans. There’s still a lot of them out there. And they’re right. Not all of them are white. But that’s okay, because we appeal across the ethnic and racial boundaries, and we feel like the message we have of creating opportunities for everybody, and creating a platform that focuses in on the important role that families and marriage is in our society, has broad appeal outside of what some would refer to narrowly as a Reagan Democrat.

HH: Okay, one more process. Will your accessibility profile change as this race gets further and further into two person race dynamics?

RS: Well, I don’t think you’ve seen it change, yet. I mean, we’ve, you know, I really do believe that you have to get out and talk to folks. And if you look at this week, we’ve done a whole series of events. I don’t know how many others are holding a lot of public events this week, but that’s all we’re doing. We’re traveling around the country. We’ve been in California, we were in Washington State, we were in Idaho yesterday, North Dakota today. We’ll be in Michigan tomorrow, and we’re doing a lot of public events, and we’re talking to a lot of folks. And I believe that’s what got me to the point I am, and I don’t see any reason to change that.

HH: Has Secret Service showed up yet?

RS: We’re talking to them. And you know, we’ve had a few sort of rowdy events, and there’s a little concern out there from some of the folks in law enforcement about that. So we’re at least having the conversation with them now.

HH: Great. Let’s go, then, to the issues. GM and Chrysler – what did you make of the deals that Obama did with those two car companies?

RS: I…look, I wasn’t for any bailouts. I believe you have to let the marketplace work. And I wasn’t for the Wall Street bailout, I wasn’t for the auto bailouts. I really do believe that those car companies, in one form or another, would have survived, post-that. The idea that somehow or another that GM and Chrysler would have been liquidated, I think, is just fantasy. I don’t think that would have happened. There would have been a structured bankruptcy where they would come out of it in as strong of shape as they are now. I think ultimately, the answer is yes, that they would have. And I believe in private sector markets. Even, I’ll even concede, as I had with the Wall Street bailouts, even if they had the idea of the federal government now setting the precedent that they will come in and take over sectors of the economy and manage those sectors of the economy has sent a precedent which is going to be a dangerous one, because it now will be repeated, because there is a precedent that happened. And so you’ll now see a much more aggressive, as we’ve seen, a much more aggressive federal government involvement in the private sector, which I think ultimately, long term, is very dangerous to this country, where it would have been, better or worse, for Detroit or for Wall Street.

HH: Does, if you’re president, will you work with Congress to empower the states, give them the authority to restructure their public pension plans? There is no chapter 11 for a state government, and boy do they desperately need it for these deals they’ve done with public sector unions over the years, Rick Santorum.

RS: I’d be happy to. You know, I know that the individual governors are trying to deal with that. Scott Walker, who’s going through that situation right now with the recall election, I’m perfectly willing to work with the states. I’m not familiar with anything specifically they’re asking for, but I would certainly be open to giving them the flexibility if they need some federal government assistance in that area, to be able to get out of some bad contracts in the past, just like corporations do through the bankruptcy process. There may be an opportunity for the states, although they’re sovereign entities, and it might be a little bit more difficult than you think.

HH: What about allowing people to use their retirement savings, which are not taxed right now, they accumulate, to save their houses, and to be able to use that equity that they’ve saved to reinvest in their houses before they’re foreclosed on? Right now, you take it out, you lose 10%, and you pay half of it in taxes.

RS: You know, the problem I have with that, Hugh, is that once you get down that slippery slope, then there’s just as much of a crisis on the back end here of people not having sufficient retirement income, and what the government’s role will have to be with Medicaid and a whole host of other programs that they’re going to have to extend dollars for seniors, for future seniors, who didn’t provide for a stable retirement. And by having them take money out, and in many cases, 401K plans that aren’t particularly robust now, to take that money out to save their house, it even creates longer term liabilities for the federal government.

HH: All right, switching to Michael Sherer today over at Time Magazine’s Swampland blog. Today, they’ve begun to take the hammers out, Rick Santorum. And his headline is “Rick Santorum wants to fight the dangers of contraception,” And he quotes from an interview you gave in October.

RS: (laughing)

HH: Have you not seen this, yet?

RS: Oh, I’ve seen all this stuff about Rick Santorum and contraception. Look, this is just the left trying to play their games that they always try to play. What I’ve said before is that the states have a right to do a lot of things that I don’t think the states should do. And I’ve said that with respect to contraception. Do I believe in contraception? Personally, no, Karen and I don’t. But that’s not something that I feel like I, that has to be in the realm of laws that contraception is and should be continue to be available.

HH: He quotes you as saying in October, “One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is I think the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea, many in the Christian faith have said well, that’s okay, contraception’s okay. It’s not okay, because it’s a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Are you going to talk a lot about that? Or is that just an effort…

RS: Well obviously not. But what I will, what I do talk about is, you know, the whole idea of what we’re seeing this, is the whole idea that sexual freedoms will somehow trump other types of freedoms and religious liberties that we saw in this case with the Catholic Church. So no, I mean, look. This is an area that is important, that we understand that there is, people have different opinions on what sexual morays should be. I have a clear one, that people, and I say this in my speeches, I said this at the debates, and this is what I was referring to, that if people can graduate from high school, work, and don’t have children before they’re married, there’s about a 2% chance they’ll end up in poverty. And what we have with the, as I was talking about in this interview, with the sexual libertinism that there is an attitude of well, just go ahead and engage in all sorts of sexual activity, and there’s no downside consequences, there’s huge downside consequences. And one of them is ending up in poverty and having all sorts of problems throughout the course of your life, because you ended up having children before you got married. So there are consequences to these actions, and that’s one of the things I was referring to.

HH: Bill Bennett and I agreed, in an interview I’ve already taped, and it’ll air next hour, that big feminism is going to come after Rick Santorum. And we refer to that to being sort of the organized, inside the Beltway, Planned Parenthood, National Abortion Rights Action League, NOW element of the Beltway culture. They’re going to come after you. And will that be overcomable in a campaign, Rick Santorum?

RS: Look, I think people realize that the culture that we’re living in right now is not one that’s going to build a strong foundation for our country to continue to be free. When you see families break down as we have, less than, about 50% of people now over the age of 18 are married. 30 years ago, it was 71%. And what you see as a result of that, directly as a result of that, you see all sorts of pathologies happen with you have higher rates of out of wedlock birth. You have higher rates of…Chuck Colson told me when he left prison 30 years ago there were 250,000 people in prison. There’s now 2.5 million, and 70-80% of them grew up without a father in the home. I mean, there are real world consequences to the actions that people take. And of course, you have politicians who stay away from that. Well, you can’t talk about that. The problem is, if you don’t talk about it, and if we don’t come to grips with the fact that the breakdown of the family, and of the culture is going to have a huge impact on our ability to be prosperous, our ability to have wealth distributed all throughout the income strata in America, one of the reasons we see so many people who have trouble rising is because of their family situation, because of trying to raise children in a single parenthood home, or fathers not taking responsibility and going out and doing things that, well, that end up with them running into all sorts of problems. So these are all real world consequences. And just, the idea of out there just talking about cutting taxes and reducing regulation and everything is going to be fine, just ignores the fundamental issue that families are a key component of a stable and healthy society. And unless we have a candidate out there that’s willing to talk about those things and promote that type of healthy family structure, I think we’re not, we’re talking past some of the biggest problems that confront the country.

HH: Well, there’s a lot of evidence today at the CityJournal’s article by Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute for that on the Hispanic in-migration in California. I doubt you’ve had a chance to read that. But I want to close by Afghanistan, Senator Santorum. I talked yesterday with Alex Berenson. Alex has written a new novel, The Shadow Patrol. He’s a great, successful novelist in the vein of Brad Thor and Vince Flynn and Daniel Silva. It’s all about Afghanistan, and whether or not that war can be “won.” What does Rick Santorum think about that?

RS: You know, I think we have to set our sights on what winning that war is. And I think we have to look at stability as opposed to trying to transform an Afghan culture, which…into something that looks anything like what we have here in America. And I think stability is important, and making sure that there is a, whether it’s a tribal system or a regional system, the idea of a centralized government running things in a way that Karzai is attempting to do, and I’m not too sure is the long term ultimate successful model for Afghanistan. I think we have to just set our sights on what is doable there. And right now, I’m not sure that the game plan we have in place ultimately is going to be successful.

HH: Is it possible, and we conclude by reminding people they can support the campaign at www.ricksantorum.com, is it possible, though, that you would begin and end your presidency with American combat troops in Afghanistan?

RS: My hope would be that it would not be the case. I think part of the issue here is both an issue of not just Afghanistan, but Pakistan and Iran, which are much bigger players in the region. And if we can begin to stabilize the situation in Pakistan, and create a healthier environment there, and I’ve got some ideas on how to do that, and in particular, create a momentum for the pro-democracy movement in Iran to do what happened in some of the other countries in the Middle East, those two changes in our relationship with Pakistan first, and secondly with sort of defanging Iran with a new government that is not as driven theologically as this one, I think we go a long way to stabilizing Afghanistan.

HH: And Rick Santorum, have you seen Act Of Valor yet, the new movie starring the SEALs?

RS: I have not.

HH: Well, find time, I hope, this weekend.

RS: I don’t get a chance to see a lot of movies these days.

HH: (laughing) I’ll bet not. Senator, thank you. You’re always generous with your time. www.ricksantorum.com, America. Go there and help the campaign continue. www.ricksantorum.com

End of interview.

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