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Senator Rick Santorum on the Pennsylvania Senate election, three weeks out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006
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HH: Rick Santorum, good to have you here.

RS: I’m Italian. I hug.

HH: That’s what I saw in the new ad. I’m an Italian kid from a steel town, and you’re fighting. I didn’t know you were Italian. I thought Santorum was…I don’t know Santorum was.

RS: No, my Dad was born in Italy.

HH: Really? Which part?

RS: The Northern part of Italy, and he left there when he was almost eight years old, and came here through Ellis Island, and my grandfather was a coal miner outside of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. And they lived in a company town, in a two-room shack outside of the coal mine, and my father always says the greatest break he had was World War II, and the GI Bill, otherwise he would have been a coal miner, too.

HH: And which small town in Pennsylvania did you grow up in?

RS: Well, I grew up in a steel town. He grew up in a coal town.

HH: Okay.

RS: I grew up in a steel town. It was Butler, Pennsylvania.

HH: Oh, I know Butler.

RS: Yeah.

HH: I’m from Warren, Ohio, so I’m seven miles from Sharon.

RS: There you go.

HH: So I know Western Pennsylvania very well.

RS: Armco Steel was the big employer in that town when I was growing up.

HH: Now I talked to Scott Rasmussen at the beginning of this hour. He’s using turnout models that say you’re way behind. I think his turnout model’s all screwed up. I think this thing is so close, that…

RS: You know, I’ve seen lots of polls, and really, it depends on your turnout model. I mean, most people are predicting this to be more of a Democratic turnout than a Republican turnout. And even if they predict it sort of neutral, which is as many Democrats turning out as Republicans, I think they’re missing it. I think our base, particularly in this race, and particularly in the State of Pennsylvania, is much more energized than the Democratic base, because people know why they’re voting for me. They have no reason…they’re not voting for Bob Casey. They’re voting maybe against me, or maybe against the President, but there are very few folks that are going to go out there and vote for my opponent, because he doesn’t stand for anything. He doesn’t do anything. He doesn’t even campaign. And the governor’s race, right now, is not…doesn’t have the intensity. And so I think the intensity’s right now with us.

HH: Senator Santorum, welcome back.

RS: Thanks, Hugh.

HH: You have had four of these before.

RS: I’ve had tough races. We’ve been behind in not every one, but three of the four, we’ve been behind at this point in the race, and you know, we’re willing to work at it.

HH: Now the Santorum 72 hour effort, tell people what that is, and they can get to it by going to www.ricksantorum.com/72hour.

RS: You can sign up, you can help us make phone calls, get out the vote calls. You can do it from anywhere in the country, and get our people out to vote.

HH: And that important point is from anywhere in the country.

RS: Anywhere in the country. We have scripts for you, and phone numbers and names, when we’re coming down the stretch. You can do it now. You can make phone calls from anywhere to help us identify voters, to get people to get absentee ballots. It’s all going to be right there on your computer screen, if you sign up for the 72 hour program. You’ll do it then. If you want to sign up for it now, it’s www.ricksantorum.com/youcall, and you can do it that way, too.

HH: Now Rick Santorum, Dennis Prager and I were talking last hour why the left hates you, and I have my own theory, but I want to hear first, why is it that after twelve years of great service in the Senate, they decided that this was the year to come and get Rick Santorum?

RS: Well, I’m in leadership. This is first and foremost, I think, the revenge of the Tom Daschle race. They went out and recruited a very, very hard…you know, the best name in politics in Pennsylvania, like it or not, which is Bob Casey. It’s a name that has gotten dozens of people elected all over the Commonwealth, who are named Bob Casey, who get elected to offices, believe it or not. In fact, back in the 1980’s, we elected a state treasurer named Bob Casey, who was a barber from Johnstown, and who was 70 years old. So just to give you an idea of how magic the name is in this state…

HH: He’s better qualified than this Bob Casey.

RS: Yeah, well that could be the case.

HH: He could cut hair, at least.

RS: But it just gives you an idea of how magic the name is here. The people need to understand. And they have had a basically a non-stop onslaught with their friends in the media, just going after us, and special interest groups going after us. And you know, it’s been tough with the President’s job approval in Pennsylvania, it has never cracked 40 in the last two years, and is sitting somewhere in the mid-30’s, mid to low 30’s right now. So you’ve got to run 18, 15-18 points ahead of the President to win the race. I mean, that’s tough.

HH: Yeah.

RS: And so, we’re working it, and we feel like we’ve got an energized group of folks who are out there ready to do battle, and get our people out to vote. And while they picked a good name, they didn’t pick a particularly good candidate who really wants to work for his job. He’s only doing about two events a week. Let me repeat that. Two events a week to campaign for this job. He wants to make this a referendum on the President, instead of a choice between candidates. And he’s got Paul Begala on his payroll, and he’s trying to make this a national race, and we’re trying to make it a race for the future of Pennsylvania as well.

HH: Now Senator Santorum, John Paul Stevens is 86, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 73, Kennedy and Scalia 70, Justice Breyer 69, Justice Souter 67. Whoever wins this will be voting on, I think, at least two, and perhaps as many as six United States Supreme Court nominees in the next six years. Bob Casey says he’s pro-life, but he will vote for Patrick Leahy to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. So he cannot be pro-life. It’s just dishonest.

RS: Well, throw on top of that, that not only would he vote for Patrick Leahy as chairman, he said he would filibuster judges. He said that he was in support of what the Democrats were doing in blocking pro-life judges to the court. So he says he’s pro-life, but on the most important life issue, and that is making sure that people who have pro-life viewpoints are not discriminated against in holding judicial seats in this country, he said he would vote for the filibuster. So this is not a guy that holds the convictions that his father held when it came to the pro-life issue. This is a man who is running for his fourth different statewide office in six years. And so this is a man of ambition who wants a new title, who’s tired of being a statewide row officer, ran for governor and lost, and now he’s trying to run for the Senate and pick up the prize, and I’m pretty confident he ain’t going to get that done either.

HH: Now Senator Santorum, it’s a Catholic state, and it always has been. It’s a pro-life state, and it always has been. His father was legitimately, genuinely pro-life…

RS: Yes, he was.

HH: …as opposed to this. Do Mass attending Catholics understand that you can call yourself whatever you want, but how you vote to organize the Senate is the most important vote you’ll cast in your entire life as a public official?

RS: We’re certainly doing our part to make sure that all folks of faith understand the impact of Bob Casey, not only in voting for Pat Leahy, not only for voting to filibuster judges, not only saying that he will, in his words, fight, fight vehemently against the bigotry of defining marriage as one man and one woman in either the state or federal Constitution. He called it bigotry, he called it divisive. I mean, it’s remarkable. He addressed the national convention of the Human Rights Campaign, has received more money from MoveOn.org, as well as the Human Rights Campaign, than I think any candidate running for the United States Senate, hundreds of thousands of dollars. And he has flip-flopped on gay adoption. He used to be against gay adoption. Now he’s for gay adoption. So he’s trying to break out on that issue, to try to appeal to voters here in the Southeastern part of Pennsylvania, and abandoning the things that his father used to believe in when he was governor.

HH: My own theory on the intensity of the campaign of you has to do with the fact that you are a practicing, and I mean Mass attending, Holy day of obligation going to Mass…

RS: Daily Mass, yeah.

HH: …Catholic, and that you walk the walk, and you believe it. How much of that anti-Catholic stuff is in the background? Or maybe it’s in the foreground. I’m not here enough, and I don’t read the Philadelphia papers enough to see it. But as a lot of people, including Bill Bennett has said, it’s the last acceptable bigotry in America, is being anti-Catholic.

RS: It is. I mean, I’m often called by the papers a theocrat for trying to impose my religious beliefs on the country, which of course, I’m not doing. But I have every right to bring my points of view to the public square, and argue them on their merits. The fact that my religion influences my viewpoints is, I think, while it may not be universal, it’s close to universal that what you were taught as a young person, and the moral code that you were given as a result of your religious education, or your philosophical education, if you came from a non-religious home, of course has an impact on how you view the world, what you see as right and wrong, what you see as just and unjust. And to suggest that somehow or another we should walk away from that is an abdication of your responsibility to bring your best to the public square, and offer that to the people.

HH: The Wall Street Journal today has a lead editorial by an economist with one of the big houses in New York, where he walks through the economy. It’s cooking.

RS: It’s cooking.

HH: It’s so cooking.

RS: I know.

HH: And the Democrats are going to repeal all these tax cuts.

RS: I know.

HH: It’s all about the tax cuts. Is this…Pennsylvania’s not as strong as some places, but it’s pretty strong.

RS: It’s very…our unemployment rate’s almost identical to the national average. Our…we are doing well here in this state. There’s certain areas of the state that are really cooking, like here in the Southeastern part of Pennsylvania. Basically, if you draw a line down the middle of Pennsylvania, and you look east, you see an economy that’s doing very, very well. And if you look west, it’s not doing as well. It’s looking more like Ohio. And so it’s a little bit of a mixed bag here without question in Pennsylvania, but we are doing a lot of things that…personally, we’re doing a lot of things to try to be helpful. And I will tell you, I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, and one of the editors of the paper looked at me and said well, we all know we’re heading into a recession. What do you guys…I mean, it was that kind of attitude where you know, you say wait a minute. Haven’t you been looking? I mean, the stock market at an all-time high, you got deficits at one of the lowest levels in years, and yet, you have this attitude of the media, they’ve got to beat down this economy so people feel bad about it, so they don’t vote for Republicans, and the policies that have created the growth and opportunity that this economy has.

HH: The deficit is about 50% of what it was forecast fifteen months ago.

RS: That’s right.

HH: And this is because of tax receipts.

RS: Absolutely.

HH: And it’s because of productivity, and the markets having this tremendous surge, as you pointed out.

RS: Yeah.

HH: Does Bob Casey stand for the reintroduction of the death tax? Because a lot of Democrats do.

RS: He does not believe in the repeal of the death tax. He said he would have voted against the trifecta bill, which had the minimum wage increase, which he criticizes me for voting against so often on that bill, but he would have voted against it, because he was not for the death tax provisions. So he’s not for repeal, he’s not for modification of the death tax, to reduce the rate for people, and raise the exemption. He said his highest priority is to go back, to go into Washington, and raise taxes on Paris Hilton. That was his comment last night, and all these rich people should have to pay more taxes.

HH: Who does his debate prep? Because when he didn’t come up with the former president of Iran’s name in your first debate, I thought to myself, that’s a pretty sad debate prep.

RS: No, he…well, I won’t even…I mean, the man doesn’t do his homework. Look, he’s always been able to win elections because his name is Bob Casey, Jr. And he’s never had to do debate prep, or any other kind of prep, because it was always something that he believes he’s entitled to. You know, my Dad’s an immigrant to this country. I was able to work my way up by knocking on doors, and scratching and clawing, and working hard, and we’ve earned it. I mean, we’ve earned…Karen and I have worked hard, our whole team has worked hard. We’ve had so many volunteers who go out and work hard for our campaign, and we’re not taking anything for granted. I don’t take one vote, I don’t take one person for granted, and we just work hard for it, and that’s a huge difference between the two of us.

HH: And they need more. You can go to www.ricksantorum.com/.

HH: Senator Santorum, you’ve been bold on the war. And you’ve never flagged, and you’re still…explain to people outside of the context of an election why this war matters so much, and why we can’t cut and run in Iraq.

RS: Yeah, I’ve been probably as outspoken as anybody during any campaign on this issue, because I think this is the greatest threat this country’s every faced. And I say that not at all worrying about fear of contradiction. We are facing a threat from radical Islamic facism that is more virulent and has the potential to appeal to more people than any other threat that we’ve ever faced, at a time…the reason it’s a greater threat is not because just the ideology that can motivate potentially a billion people around the world to be activated against us, but that it is a time when these countries like Iran, and that’s the focal point for me, Iran, is trying to develop a weapon of mass destruction, a nuclear weapon, not for defensive purposes, but for offensive purposes, to gain strength within the region, to dominate that region, to use the economic sway that they have within the region, to get other countries to submit to their ideology. And if not, they have a weapon. And again, this is…so you have oil, you have huge weapons, and you have something that we’ve never faced before. These are folks who don’t want to live for their cause, they want to die for their cause. These are people who don’t care about the success of their military endeavors, just simply that they die in pursuit of those military endeavors for jihad. So you have someone who will use a nuclear weapon, because they will kill people that they want to kill. And if they use it back, that’s okay. Dying is not a problem. And so this is a threat unlike anything we have ever faced. And at the heart of it is Iran. And so when I go around and I talk about this issue, I talk about the fact that we are facing not terrorists…terror is a tactic. We’re facing Islamic facism. They have an ideology that is one that is they believe, the Shias in particular, believe that they are on a mission to bring about the return of the Mahdi, their messiah. And to do that, they need to destroy us. That’s number one. Number two, they have a tactic that’s effective, terror. One of the things that they do more than we do. They look at the polls more than we do. They’re looking to see whether the terror tactics they’re using, Iran is using right now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Southern Lebanon, where they are out there using their forces, using their weaponry, to fight us, and to fight the war on Islamic facism from the other side of the war against America, on the other side. They’re using that tactic to try to not destroy our military, they know they can’t do that. What they can do is destroy our will. And this tactic is aimed straight at the heart of the American people. And unfortunately, it’s working. We are seeing more and more people fall away, saying oh, we can’t win, we should get out. That’s exactly what they want.

HH: In Pennsylvania, the counter-attack began in Pennsylvania, in the skies over Pennsylvania.

RS: Flight 93.

HH: Flight 93. And if people remember the wonderful and amazing movie, Deer Hunter, in Western Pennsylvania, there was an understanding of the war even then. It was a controversial movie, and people can have…but this has never been other than a hyper-patriotic state.

RS: Yeah.

HH: I mean, this is…the revolution rides the way through. How can they be considering a candidate who doesn’t know the names, and doesn’t know the story, and doesn’t know the threat, who wants to join a party that wants to cut and run?

RS: You know, my opponent has been very clever on this. He said he would have voted exactly the same way I would on the war. So he understands this is a state that is not a cut and run state. And so he said he would have voted that way, and he’s not for immediate withdrawal, though he’s taken two or three positions, but now, he’s saying firmly, he’s not for immediate withdrawal, or any kind of withdrawal plan. So he’s…but he’s hyper-critical of the administration. So he’s trying to have it both ways. And I suspect that he did all the polls, figured out what the position he needed to take, that could walk that fine line, and then of course, he’ll get to Washington, D.C., and be told what to do by Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin and Harry Reid and the rest of the folks down there, and he’ll follow lock-step. This is a guy that doesn’t have a deep sense of conviction. If you watch the debate, he doesn’t understand the issues. Not only doesn’t he know the head, the former head of Iran, but I mean, he doesn’t understand the difficult situation we’re in. We had a discussion last night in a debate, and it was very clear. He has an incredibly shallow understanding. He will go with the flow in the Democratic Party. There’s no question in my mind. And that’s not where Pennsylvania wants to go. That’s not where I think the country wants to go, or more importantly, it should go, because this is a serious threat.

HH: Now I want to talk about the Republican Party. One of the reasons I know a lot of people are going to offer to help you, send contributions, have been doing so, is that you really do play offense. And the Republicans did not play offense very much in the last two years.

RS: No.

HH: I think that’s part of the problem, or perceived problem with the base, is that judges didn’t get votes, the fence only got passed in the last week, thank you for your support of that.

RS: Thank you.

HH: That was an important deal. They just didn’t play offense. What’s wrong with the leadership of the Republican Party?

RS: Well, I mean, it’s…you’re right. We didn’t play offense on a lot of issues. As you know, there’s no one who pushed harder for more votes on judges than I did.

HH: Right, than you.

RS: I mean, I was the leader of that charge, and continued to lead that charge. You know, we came into a situation where we had a group of Senators on our side that didn’t want to play offense, and made it very hard for us, because they wouldn’t give us the votes to cut taxes. They wouldn’t give us the votes to do medical liability. I mean, I can go on down the list of other things that we should have accomplished that we didn’t accomplish, because we didn’t have votes. Obviously, we had very few votes on the Democratic side. And we didn’t have all the votes on our side.

HH: Now leadership is changing. Bill Frist is retiring, Mitch McConnell is expected to be the leader. You’re expected to be in the leadership when you win re-election.

RS: The whip.

HH: Is that going to be different in two years?

RS: Well, I plan on being the whip, and one of the things the whip’s supposed to do is work hard to make sure that we get everybody on board on the important issues of the day.

HH: Does Pennsylvania understand, by the way, what that means for the state if you’re the whip?

RS: It’s…you know what it means.

HH: Ed Rendell knows what it means.

RS: Yeah, he does.

HH: He pretty much told people that you’ve been…

RS: He has been very out front saying that Rick Santorum delivers for Pennsylvania, and we won’t say anything bad about me.

HH: For our national audience, that’s the Democratic governor of the Keystone State.

RS: The Democratic governor. He understands how…we have…he’s the governor, and he was the mayor of Philadelphia before he was governor, and I work with everybody. I work with Democrats, Republicans…you know, they’re my constituents. And I work hard to try to make improvements in the lives of my constituents. And so he’s been very out front saying how important I am to the state. And let me assure you, the people of Pennsylvania are going to hear that between now and the election, how important that is at this critical time.

HH: Rick Santorum, a great pleasure having you on the air. Come back again. It’s great to be in your state.

RS: Thanks, Hugh.

HH: Thanks for hosting us tonight, and we look forward to working with you for the next three weeks and beyond. www.ricksantorum.com, America. If you want to be part of that get out the vote effort, it’s www.ricksantorum.com/72hour. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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