Florida Straw Poll Shakes Up GOP Race

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


HERMAN CAIN, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When you cast your ballot at this straw poll, send Washington a message. They're ready for a problem solver, not another politician. They're ready for solutions, not more speeches. That's what the United States of America, the people are ready for. Send Washington a message.


SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The road to 2012 has already been filled with a number of twists and turns, but one of the most surprising developments came over the weekend when businessman Herman Cain upset the two Republican frontrunners in the state of Florida in their straw poll. Now, Cain received 37 percent of the vote. Governors Perry and Romney received a combined 29 percent.

So, with these surprising results in mind, does this mean that there's an opening for one of the so-called second tier candidates to move up in the polls?

Joining me now is a man who scored an impressive fourth place, finishing after a strong performance in last week's debate, that's former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. He's back with us.

Senator, how are you?

RICK SANTORUM, R-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm doing great, Sean. Great to be back on the show.

HANNITY: We weren't able to have you on the other night after the debate, and we want to be fair to all the candidates. I thought -- it was interesting. I thought, I don't like the idea of the polls right now, meaning a whole lot. I think they give us a big picture, but I think that it was interesting from my perspective is that candidates that weren't polling as well including yourself did very well in this Florida straw poll. Why do you think that's the case?

SANTORUM: Well, look. I've been getting a lot of comments both in Florida, as I travel to Iowa, and here in Pennsylvania tonight. People are watching the debates, and the thing I hear more than anything else is let all the other candidates be heard from. I think they were tired and several of the early debates of, you know, two or three candidates getting half or more of the time. And they want to hear what the other candidates have to say. And now that they are, you're starting to see the ramifications. These other candidates' support is starting to wane and there's some peaked interest in some of the ideas and some of the experience and some of the, you know, some of the record of the people who are on the, quote, "second tier."

So, I think this race, as I heard Dick Morris say, it's a wide open race. And I'm very, very excited about it. I think we've been sort of the tortoise in this race, slow and steady. And we haven't had our big moment in the sun, but we continue to sort of keep picking up, picking up, and picking up, and that's the kind of progress you want to make.

HANNITY: All right. There was a fiery exchange between you and Governor Rick Perry. The issue was immigration. Let's roll the tape.


GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they've been brought there by no fault of their own. I don't think you have a heart.

SANTORUM: Governor Perry, no one is suggesting up here that the students that are legal in this country shouldn't be able to go to a college and university. I mean, I think you're sort of making this leap that unless we subsidize this, the taxpayers subsidize it, they won't be able to go. But most folks who want to go to the state of Texas or any other state, out of state, have to pay the full boat. The point is, why are we subsidizing. Not that they can't go, they can go. They just have to borrow money and find other sources to be able to go.


HANNITY: Senator, I had Governor Perry show on my radio show on Friday and I asked him about your exchange. And his answer to me was, well, wait a minute. You're saying that it's OK for the children of illegal immigrants to go, and the only area of difference is on the subsidy side. In other words, the in-state tuition break that they get. So, for example, the children of illegals, it's OK with you to go to public schools, universities.

SANTORUM: Well, children from any country around the world can go to our public schools and universities.

HANNITY: No, no. I mean, people here in the country illegally.

SANTORUM: Well, OK, but if they're here illegally from what country? Pick a country. And if they were in that country, they can come, pay the full tuition which is you know, a public university subsidizes. You know, if you're an out of state student, you're subsidizing in-state by paying higher tuition. And so, I have no objection of people from Mexico coming to the University of Texas. No objection to people from Canada coming from the University of Texas. They should pay the higher rate.

HANNITY: All right. But if they're here illegally. In other words, I think there's two issues here. And I think you made your point on whether or not they get in-state tuition breaks. There's a clear difference between you. What I'm trying to ascertain here, is there a difference if children or people are in this country illegally, should they be allowed to go to American schools even though they're in the country illegally?

SANTORUM: Well, sure, because we allow people who are not from this country to go to our schools as long as they pay the full tuition. So, I'm not going to penalize people in this country and not allow them to go to schools when we allow people from outside the country to come in -- to go to schools. So, no, I don't think anyone is suggesting that, but they have to pay the rate that in fact subsidizes the in-state people for their lower tuition.

HANNITY: All right. Because I think what happened here, this is my analysis, is that Governor Perry went right to the top. And I think this is a position that lot of conservatives feel strongly about. And that is that people did not respect our laws and sovereignty should not have access to the benefits that American citizens have access to. For example, our schools are overburdened, overcrowded. It's impacted the criminal justice system.

SANTORUM: You're talking about -- you're talking about public education. I'm talking about higher education. Higher education, we allow anybody around the world to come in to our schools.

HANNITY: Right. But they have to come in legally for that process. If you're here illegally, you would still allow them to go?

SANTORUM: Right. I would, but the key here, and I think what upsets people, certainly upsets me is that he would suggest that somehow we're heartless if we don't subsidize people to go to school. And the other thing that bothered me is somehow or another that, I think he made the comment that if, in fact, we don't subsidize them and they don't go to school, that somehow they're going to become wards of the state as if people don't go to college, somehow they're going to be on welfare. I mean, that was another sort of leap in trying to, you know, point at the heartlessness of America which I think, frankly, doesn't wash at all.

HANNITY: All right. Senator, look forward to seeing you at the next debate. And I think there's going to be a few more before we get to January. Thanks for being here.

SANTORUM: Look forward to it. Thanks, Sean.

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