December 09, 2011

Can Santorum Pull Off an Upset in Iowa?

Guests: Former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn.

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," December 9, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: He has spent more time in the Hawkeye State than any other GOP presidential candidate, and now all that campaigning could finally be paying off.

Today former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum snagged a huge Iowa endorsement from Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a move that is sure to raise more than a few eye browse since in '08, well, Schultz backed Mitt Romney.

Now earlier,I sat down with Senator Santorum to talk about his Iowa strategy and much more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HANNITY: Senator, how are you?

RICK SANTORUM, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm doing great, Sean. Thanks for having me on.

HANNITY: You have to be excited. You picked up a big endorsement today, the Secretary of State, Matt Schultz of Iowa. Big for a couple reasons, number one, his position in the state, state-wide office, and number two, he was a guy that supported Romney as I understand it, the last time?

SANTORUM: Yes, we are very, very excited. Matt is really interesting. He came and defeated a Democratic incumbent in Iowa for secretary of state and he ran a campaign very much like mine.

In fact, I worked with Matt in his campaign. He ran a grass roots effort and really surprised everyone. No one really saw Matt coming, but he organized people and did a great job. He's a young guy with a great young family, and it's a real dynamic endorsement for us. He has a great following in the state. We feel this is just another indication that, you know, our presence in the state and the time we've paid there and the vision that we've communicated to the people of Iowa is starting to catch on.

HANNITY: You know, you spent a lot of time in politics. Republican Party has its history. That is they always go to the next guy.

SANTORUM: Yes.

HANNITY: It doesn't seem to be working out that way this year in as much that there really wasn't a next guy and it seems wide open. There have been a lot of fluctuations in the polls. What do you make of it?

SANTORUM: Yes, I think that you know, people are looking for the, you know, the authentic conservative. Someone who they can trust, that's going to stand by their principles, someone who is a person with courage to be able to fight that fight.

We've got huge problems, Sean, and I think people are just going through in their role decks of candidates and trying to figure out is this person the real deal. Do they have the courage? Do they have the integrity? Do they have the authenticity? Does their track record back up what they say they are going to do?

And I think as a candidate has risen and fallen, I think people have come short of the mark. And our hope is obviously that between now and January 3rd that people are going to take a good look at us. Look at the bold plan we've put together to grow this economy and the solid leadership I've provided on national security issues and say, you know, this is the kind of commander in chief, this is the kind of leader that will stand up and make the kind of changes that are necessary in Washington.

HANNITY: You know, there's been a big controversy over the fact that Donald Trump is hosting this debate. And I don't really understand it myself. Governor Romney, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, they are not going to participate. You are going to be there, Newt Gingrich is going to be there, I assume maybe a couple others will be there.

But I'm like why -- what's the big deal? You know, if Donald Trump is going to ask questions or anybody wants to ask question, why not have the forum, why not participate? Why do you think there's been so much controversy about it?

SANTORUM: Well, it's not like we haven't had people who are moderators who have tried to inject themselves into the debates before? I think people are worried that maybe Donald will do that. What's new about that? At least Donald shares sympathetically some of the positions that, Newt and I, who have agreed to do this already, share.

So I don't have a problem. People think that he may try to take over the show. Newt and I are big boys, we can handle ourselves and we will be able to make sure we can get our answers out.

HANNITY: And you actually did a Lincoln-Douglas sort of town hall with Newt already. You know, a lot of people -- I thought you performed very, very well in the debates and you conducted yourself -- you haven't gotten into too many battles, you had that battle with Rick Perry over immigration and little battles, skirmishes, but for the most part, you like all the other candidates. You get along with Newt. He's viewed as a really good debater, but you want to get your view out. If I was running and I wasn't leading in the polls, I would want to take advantage of any opportunity I can get to get a national audience.

SANTORUM: Absolutely and that's why, as soon as the invitation came out, we saw that Newt immediately accepted, and we immediately contacted News Max and said we are in.

Look, I would be very happy if it was just the two of us down there, over there in Iowa debating. We feel that we match up well against Newt.

Look, I wouldn't be in this race if I didn't think we were the best candidate to lead this country and to win the race that we had the strongest credentials to defeat Barack Obama in the swing states that matter. I happen to come from one and that we have what it takes to lead this country.

HANNITY: How important is Iowa for you? It's very well-known, I mean, you are known as a family values, conservative candidate. And historically and traditionally this is a state that has agreed with people that have your position.

How -- what are your expectations to manage them? What would they be? What do you need to come out of Iowa and say, all right this, is going to jump start our campaign.

SANTORUM: Well, I am someone who believes in the centrality of the family. It's the first economy of the country and it's absolutely essential if we are going to have a strong economy we have to have strong families and we have to have our policies to promoting and strengthening the family.

I think that message resonates well in Iowa and frankly, I think it resonates well everywhere. I think most Americans recognize how important that issue is. So I don't think I'm an Iowa-only candidate, but I do agree with you it has appeal to folks in the heartland. We think we will do very well. We are running, I think we are tied with Rick Perry and statistically tied with Michele Bachmann in Iowa right now.

I think most people don't think we are going to do all that well. The pundits, as you know, have pretty much written us off. I think we will surprise a lot of people. We're not like, you know, Newt or Mitt Romney that has to finish first. We just have to just exceed expectations. We will get a big bump out of Iowa. People will say this is the conservative alternative. This is the real true conservative in this race and hopefully we go into New Hampshire, which is in my end of the country, the northeast, and I think we will do a lot better again there than people predict.

We spent a lot of time in New Hampshire. We have a lot of great support up there, and if Iowa can provide the spark, there's plenty of tinder on the ground on New Hampshire for us to burn brightly.

HANNITY: All right, Senator Santorum, always good to see you. Thanks for being with us.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much, Sean. I appreciate the opportunity.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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