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Conn Carroll explains why I expect the flood of GOP endorsements to keep rolling towards Mitt Romney, even if Newt Gingrich wins tomorrow’s South Carolina primary. The former Speaker’s negatives could imperil not just the campaign to take the White House but also the House majority and the chance to retake the Senate. Many in the Tea Party might be willing to take that flyer, however, just for the sharp edge that Newt brings to the debate. Pete Wehner expands on the downside of this approach for the conservative movement as a whole.

Rick Santorum joins me in the second hour of today’s program and I will ask him about this. The transcript will be posted here later.

And don’t miss tomorrow’s special Saturday broadcast as I cover the results from South Carolina from 7 to 9 PM EST on most of regular stations and with many of my regular guests and analysts.

The Santorum transcript:

HH: Joined now by Senator Rick Santorum in South Carolina. His website, www.ricksantorum.com, running a money bomb right now. Senator, welcome back.

RS: Thank you very much, Hugh. Thanks for having me on.

HH: It did not get asked last night, so I’m going to ask it first. What is the extent of the problem that Iran presents the international community, and what would President Santorum do about it?

RS: Iran is a radical theocracy that is intent on spreading their version of radical theocracy throughout the Middle East. They are an existential threat to the state of Israel, and frankly, to the Muslim world, and obviously, the Sunni Muslim world in particular that is concerned about it. An Iran nuclear weapon would mean, in all likelihood, a Turkey and Saudi nuclear weapon. But most importantly, they would use that weapon to either protect themselves from an attack, and then use that now-protected status to even more aggressively purvey terror in and around the world, and expand their reach. It would fundamentally change the security posture of our country, as well as every other country in the world. And as a result of that, they simply cannot get that weapon. And I put forth a ten point plan. It’s on my website, www.ricksantorum.com, which ratchets it up to the point where the final action would be they either open up this facility and…for us to inspect it, or if not, and stop the processing for nuclear weapons facilities, or we will take that facility out. That’s the ultimate step that we’ll take, but that is on the table. [# More #]

HH: And then, Senator Santorum, why would you make a better commander-in-chief than Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, and of course, then, in the general election, rather than Barack Obama?

RS: Well, I would say first, you have someone who has a lot of experience in this area, unlike Barack Obama coming into this office, an experience of eight years on the Armed Services Committee. I worked with the Pentagon, worked in a bipartisan fashion to build consensus on these very important issues, and I’ve been actively involved for a long time on foreign policy, but particularly focused on the Middle East, and particularly focused on Iran with another emphasis on Central and South America. And so you know, we have a lot of experience, and I’ve got very, very strong and clear views of the security of our country and what we need to do. I’m not someone who is jumping all over the place with different ideas with respect to what we do to confront problems. I’ve got a very clear worldview as to what America’s role is. I have a very clear worldview of what the threats are, and I’m very clear about articulating those accurately to the American public.

HH: Yesterday, you received the endorsement of James Dobson, founder of Focus On The Family, very influential. It did not come up at the debate last night. I don’t know why, since that actually would matter to people, as opposed to most endorsements. But I have also had two callers today say they are afraid that Newt Gingrich is going to win, and therefore, they are switching from Rick Santorum to Mitt Romney. What do you say to them? And what do you say to Newt supporters and Romney supporters about coming to Rick Santorum?

RS: Well, look, this race isn’t going to be over in South Carolina. And you know, let’s assume you’re right, Newt Gingrich does win. Well now, we have each candidate with one win. And this is going to be, and the important thing is, conservatives don’t have to worry, if Newt wins, that the whole objective is to stop Romney. Or people who are concerned about Newt say well, the whole objective is to stop Newt. What we have in this, and what South Carolina can do, is just restart the election from square one. Each candidate has won a state. I make the argument that Newt won in his backyard, Romney won in his backyard, and I won in nobody’s back yard. And so we think we’re actually in better position to go forward. I think you’re going to see, we’re going to, you know, everybody has us running toward third and fourth right now. We just came from three events, 700-800 people jammed in, people standing out in the rain to get in, energy, enthusiasm, our phones are just lighting up. Last night was a good night for us. Winning in Iowa yesterday was a good day for us, and you had Dobson’s endorsement. A whole bunch of other leaders throughout South Carolina are coming on board. There’s an energy and enthusiasm around us in this last 24 hours. I think we’re going to surprise a few folks tomorrow.

HH: How is the money going at www.ricksantorum.com?

RS: We’ve raised, I think, we’re more than two times, and we’re approaching three times the amount of money in two weeks that we raised in a year. And we’re doing well. Our money bomb is doing great. I know we’re up, we were trying to raise a million dollars by tomorrow, through tomorrow. And we’re up toward, I know the last I looked earlier this morning, we were about three quarters of a million dollars. And it’s, you know, the money’s coming in. We’re running ads in Florida right now, we’re going to go down there tomorrow, and excuse me, the day after tomorrow, and compete down in Florida. We’re going to work this thing through. And we’re the best option to defeat Barack Obama. That’s the point we’ve been trying to make, and with a strong conservative in this race, someone you can rely upon, someone who’s not going to say something or do something that you’re going to worry about reading in the paper the next day, or someone who’s just simply too timid and indecisive and not bold enough to do what’s necessary to either beat Obama or to govern this country. The analogy I use is Goldilocks. I mean, a little too radioactive, a little too hot, a little too timid? Just right is what you’re voting for with Rick Santorum.

HH: At www.ricksantorum.com. Thank you, Senator.

End of interview.

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