Rick Santorum's 'Path' to GOP Nomination

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," October 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Tonight we welcome Republic presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santoru m to our "Center Seat." Senator, thanks for taking the red eye.

RICK SANTORUM, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's great to be here.

BAIER: You look engaged and awake.

SANTORUM: Yeah, yeah, sure, thanks.

BAIER: Let's just start quickly about your standing where things stand right now. You have made no bones about the fact that Iowa is going to be key to your strategy. The latest Iowa poll Marist/NBC poll, has you at three percent as you look at the list there, with Mitt Romney at 23 percent. Then we had the third quarter fundraising, and the list of folks gaining money, the left side is the money received and then you have cash on hand, and the second page you can see, you trail here at $704,000 for the quarter. What is your path for supporters who say can this guy win?

SANTORUM: Yeah, the path is the path that has been taken by many people in Iowa, which is to go out there and work very hard on the grassroots level, build a team, get the kind of support from key interest groups, which we are in the process of doing, and surprise people on primary day. That's been the path from day one. It's a grassroots strategy. It's working well for us. We have been to about 70 counties so far in Iowa, far more than everybody else.

BAIER: But when you see those polls at three percent.

SANTORUM: Those polls don't mean anything to me at all. I mean I have heard this from folks from Iowa. I have heard this from folks in New Hampshire. This race breaks late. Look, if you would have showed the poll two weeks ago -- three weeks ago, Herman Cain would have been at four percent. He is now at 30 percent. There was a Pew poll taken the other day that said over half the people in the country couldn't even name one of us.

So the idea that that this is anywhere near set is just absurd. And I'm just going to keep going out and focusing. I hope you guys keep talking us down that we have no chance, because when we come in there and finish in second, third, or first place, you'll say, wow, where did this guy come from?

BAIER: To be fair we don't do that on this panel.

SANTORUM: I'm saying "you" generally speaking.

BAIER: Charles has a question about health care. You had an interesting exchange with Governor Romney last night. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: You just don't have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare. Your plan was the basis for Obamacare. Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare. And to say that you are going to repeal it, you have no track record on that that we can trust you that you're going to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: So you're the president and you're going to abolish Obamacare on day one. What's your substitute, or do you need a substitute? And if you do a substitute, what's the idea of that substitute? Is it about access, making sure everybody has access, or is it cost containment?

SANTORUM: Yeah. That was the problem with Obamacare is the problem with Romneycare is that it focused on the wrong problem.

KRAUTHAMMER: What do you give us?

SANTORUM: I will give you my track record. I started back in 1992 when I introduced a bill with John Kasich, now the governor of Ohio, called Medical Savings Accounts. When I ran for the Senate in 1994, I ran against the man who was the author of Hillarycare in the United States Senate.

And I ran on a patient-driven, consumer-driven health healthcare system that is consistent with the philosophy of America, which is free markets, build it from the bottom up. Don't control it from the top down. You have to have patients involved in the transactions. If patients are insulated from the costs of health care, if there is no transparency, if there is no knowledge as to what you are getting for the dollars you are expending, you can't have a rational healthcare system. What you are going to have is what you have now, which is unfortunately insurance companies making a lot of these decisions in the private sector and, of course, government making the decisions on the public sector.

KRAUTHAMMER: What's in your bill?

SANTORUM: It's a medical savings -- health savings accounts which is -

KRAUTHAMMER: [INAUDIBLE]

SANTORUM: -- well, no, that's the basis of it. There is tort reform. One of the things I have introduced over a long period of time was our tax credits for the uninsured. We need tax equity what it comes to how we treat people who have employer provided insurance as opposed to those who don't. And as you know, people who have employer provided insurance right now get a huge tax break and those of us who don't, who have to go out and purchase it with after tax dollars, ya know, pay, depending on your tax break, 15, 20, 30 percent more as a result of that.

BAIER: Speaking of taxes, Steve?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: You have spent much of your time in the last few days assailing Herman Cain's 999 plan. You don't like it. You've made that plain. What's your plan?

SANTORUM: Well, the plan I put together is one focused on that sector of the economy that I think is the most important sector to get revived in this country. You know, Donald Trump made almost a presidential campaign on trying to get jobs back here to America. The jobs he is trying to get back were manufacturing jobs. We had 21 percent of the workforce in this country employed in manufacturing when I was growing up. It's now nine percent.

We can get a lot of those jobs back in the sense that a lot of those jobs were on the margin went over to other countries, but we can bring them back if we create a profitable environment. And how do you do that? You take the corporate tax, which is 35 percent. You reduce it to zero. You take the re-patrioted -- profits over there you re-patriot them. If they invest in plant equipment in this country, zero percent tax.

You take all the regulations dealing with manufacturing that are on the books you repeal them all and you put in place, over time a system that is one that works with manufacturers. Finally, Governor Perry is right on this, I have talked about it for a long time, energy is very important to manufacturing. I'm the son -- the grandson of a coal miner. I believe we need coal at affordable prices, natural gas, which Pennsylvania has now done a great job in helping to reduce the price of natural gas. One of the reasons manufacturers are beginning already to come back is because we, when I left the Senate, natural gas prices were $12. They are now $3.60.

So having stable energy prices, having a regulatory environment, a tax environment and a repatriation of profits, which means having capital available, which we all know right now, is a big problem, that message is a message -- this is the important thing. Not only will it get the manufacturing sector going, it will get bipartisan support.

I spoke to the New Hampshire legislature the other day, and I talked about this plan. I talked about how we could get bipartisan support. And a couple of Democrats went over to my co-chair, Dan Tamburello and said, Dan we would like to have the senator come and speak in our district.

So this is a plan that can get things done, get the economy going. And the other thing, Eric Cantor mentioned this the other day. I have been talking about it for months -- income mobility. One of the reasons we've seen a hallowing out of the middle of America is we because haven't had jobs that pay the kind of salaries that support middle income families. This will create those jobs. This will create upward mobility. This is what I think Republicans have been a little tone deaf too in this debate. I'm not tone deaf.

BAIER: A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: OK, but how quickly will those work? Conservatives roundly criticized the president's jobs plan and proposed instead repealing regulation, cutting taxes, and cutting spending, which economists say will not provide an immediate, necessary jolt to the economy. Is there any part of the president's jobs plan that you can support that will?

SANTORUM: The president's jobs plan is more of the same. My jobs plan will work because it's -- it will provide a jolt.

STODDARD: Immediately?

SANTORUM: Immediately. A couple of things -- cut corporate taxes to zero is a huge jolt for the manufacturers. And $1.2 trillion of resources sitting out there to immediately invest in plant and equipment will get the construction industry going again in this country in a very, very big way in a lot of the states that are hurting the worse, which is the industrial states in this country. Yeah, it will turn things around very quickly.

BAIER: We have many more questions with Senator Santorum. Stand by. Our panelists are back after a quick break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BAIER: And we're back with our panel, plus "Center Seat" guest former Senator Rick Santorum. Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: Senator, opponents of gay marriage frame their opposition as a defense of traditional marriage. Given that rates of divorce and illegitimacy have been rising astronomically for half a century, in what way is opposing gay marriage a defense of traditional marriage?

SANTORUM: Well, just because something is in trouble and has been in trouble, and clearly, ya know, no fault divorce laws, Ronald Reagan said, ya know, that was a mistake that he made when he was in California starting that bandwagon -- just because an institution is hurting you don't execute it you don't get rid of it.

KRAUTHAMMER: How is this an execution?

SANTORUM: Well, because it basically takes something that is -- I always talk about you can call a dog a cat. It's not. I mean marriage is something. It's from time and [INAUDIBLE], I mean, a union between a man and woman. It is an institution you can't redefine because it is something natural. It's something in nature of men and women, or coming together, having children, raising those children for the benefit of society. And it's always been that way. It is what it is.

To redefine it then destroys it because it becomes something that is just a relationship between two people. And, of course, you know Charles, marriage is more than just a relationship between two people.

KRAUTHAMMER: But in biblical times --

SANTORUM: It's for the furtherance of society. It's for the raising and nurturing of children. It's for having that biological bond which is so important for the raising. It's bringing mothers -- you know, I have got seven children, Charles, and guess what? My wife has a different influence on my children than I do because of gender, not just because of who we are. And that's important for children.

We -- and we as a society should want to give children the best chance and this is the best chance having strong marriage, having a president who goes out and talks about the importance economically, socially for the benefit of children. That's what we should be focused on instead of -- if people want to, you know, create legal rights for other people, that's their business. But don't mess with this just, vital institution of our country, of the world.

BAIER: Turning to foreign policy, A.B.

STODDARD: OK, you have said that we need to win the war in Afghanistan. It's getting a little lonely up on that stage for you. Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Haley Barbour are speaking for a growing number of Republicans who agree more and more it's time to leave Afghanistan and let it govern itself. What can you tell the American people, about, souring already on the war what your plan is, your different plan to win there, and what is your definition of victory?

SANTORUM: The definition of victory is very clear. The Taliban and the forces that of radical Islamist within Afghanistan are not a factor. There will always be some existence as there are in this country, some existence of those that are radicals. But it's not a factor in threatening the stability of the government. That's victory.

How do you get there? You don't get there with political timelines. You get there with a commitment to success and deploying the resources that are necessary with the rules of engagement necessary to be successful.

And that doesn't necessarily mean that we're going to have a government structure that's in place right now. It may be a very different government structure. It may be more related to a confederation of states as opposed to a stronger central government. There is a lot of things we can do as far as how do we get to a conclusion, a stable Afghanistan.

But the objective has to be to get there, because if we don't have that objective, then the enemy has something that every enemy always wants, hope. And those who are allies have something that they desperately need which is the confidence that will be there until the job is finished.

BAIER: President Santorum, how does he react to the Iranian, the alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil and the nuclear program ongoing?

SANTORUM: I have said this from the very beginning of my involvement in Iran which started with the Iran Freedom Support Act which I introduced with no co-sponsors by the way in 2004. No one would agree, that what we have to do is to go and work with the pro-democracy folks within Iran to overturn this government.

This government will not and cannot be negotiated with. They are radical Islamists. They are theocrats. They are mullahs who believe that it is their destiny to fulfill the prophets and the 12th Imam's vision of having global control of the world for radical Shia Islam.

BAIER: So military action?

SANTORUM: Military action is always a last step. It has to be on the table. But I think there is lots of things we can do. For example, we had a president.

BAIER: I mean, day one, you find out about this plot then what does President Santorum do?

SANTORUM: President Santorum puts together -- President Santorum would have been doing this before day one. I would have, for example, a strike fund. One of the things that is going on right now is there are strikes within Iran that are not supported because they don't have the resources to be able to sustain that strike to help bring down the government.

We can support these entities within Iran to help the revolution take place instead of doing what the president did two years ago, which is basically stiff them and say, you know, well, we are going to sort of back off. We are not going to comment on this. We are going to sort of side with the government that this was a legitimate election and the revolution was crushed. It would not be under a Santorum administration.

BAIER: Politics, Steve?

HAYES: Yeah, I want to shift back to politics and go back and play for you something that you said in 2008 in the heat of the 2008 campaign. Give this a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANTORUM: If you are a conservative, there really is only one place to go right now. I would even argue further than that. If you are a Republican, if you are a Republican in the broadest sense, there is only one place to go right now. And that's Mitt Romney.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HAYES: Obviously things have changed. Last night you said twice that Mitt Romney was a liberal and once you called him a moderate. So which one is it, and do you have credibility on these things?

SANTORUM: Yeah. I have got a lot of credibility on it. I waited until five days before Super Tuesday to endorse anybody. And it was after the Florida primary. You can see, February 1st. And there were two candidates left in the race that I thought had a chance of winning. There was a third, Mike Huckabee, who was a great candidate, but I didn't he had -- I didn't see the path for him to get there.

So it was down to John McCain or Mitt Romney. In my opinion having served with John McCain for 12 years, Mitt Romney was the conservative between the two. It's not necessarily who is the absolute conservative, but between the two he was the conservative, and I would say the best chance for us to win.

That was four years ago. We now have center stage Obamacare as one of the most important issues in this election. And with Governor Romney on the ticket we give that issue away. In fact, we more than give that issue away. It becomes a liability for us. That's something that we can't have on this ticket.

BAIER: Steve has an interesting follow to this on the online show.

SANTORUM: You're teasing, you're teasing

BAIER: Yes this is a good tease.

SANTORUM: Okay, good.

BAIER: And we have many more questions. And we'll take questions from viewers. Log on. Stay tuned, though, right after this to see a blast from the past.

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