TOPICS > Politics

Santorum: Romney ‘Must Open Up a Window as to Who He Is’

August 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Former Pennsylvania senator and presidential contender Rick Santorum told the NewsHour he found presidential contender Mitt Romney "to be pretty normal" and he should reveal more about who he is to voters.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mitt Romney became the nominee after a prolonged primary season.  His chief opposite, the man who won 11 primaries and caucuses and galvanized social conservatives is joining us at the table now.

And we want to welcome former Senator Rick Santorum.  Thank you very much for being here.

FORMER SEN. RICK SANTORUM, R-PA.: Thank you, Judy.  Good to be here.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Senator, we heard you speak last night, speak from the heart.  Are social issues getting enough attention at this convention and in this campaign?

RICK SANTORUM:  Well, I would say this, that you know, the big issues of the day, the issues that I talked about out on the campaign trail, had to do with, you know, the state of this economy and the fiscal (ph) concerns that people have and the overall relationship between government and people in their lives.  I think that’s the overriding issue in this election.

What I tried to do in the campaign is really what Tony (ph) just mentioned, which is to understand that it just doesn’t happen in a vacuum.  America is more than just industry and business.  It’s also families and then when families break down, government needs to get bigger to pick up the pieces.  And that if we’re really going to make government smaller, that’s the message.

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And we have to make individuals and families bigger and stronger.  And that was really, I think, what galvanized it.  It was social issues.  It — really interesting little point, I’m probably going long here for you and I apologize.  But I don’t know if you remember election night.  We always did better than what the exit polls said we were going to do.  Every night.

Remember Mississippi and Alabama (inaudible) Santorum being — Romney wins by 12 in Mississippi, 7 in Alabama.  We won both states.  After the campaign, the Romney campaign said, you know, this phenomenon we’d never seen, the exit polls being wrong.  And we said we figured that the exit polls can’t be wrong.  Something’s going on.

So they started.  They asked two questions, who are you for and what are you planning to vote.  And they showed me a poll from Pennsylvania just before I got out.  If you voted before noon, I was up 4.  If you voted between noon and 5 o’clock, I was down 5.  If you voted after 5, I was up 21.

GWEN IFILL:  You’ve got working people on your (inaudible).


RICK SANTORUM:  It wasn’t social issues, Judy.  It was talking their language of what they’re living and their lives, as people punching the clock every day.  And that’s what connected to people.  And that’s what hopefully the guy from Wisconsin, the guy who grew up in the working class background, that’s what he’s going to do tonight to —

GWEN IFILL:   Maybe —

RICK SANTORUM:  — to make that connection.

GWEN IFILL:  Maybe, Senator, maybe that’s why you got a speaking role at the convention and some the people who were also on those debates (inaudible) did not.  But I was just interested to hear Tony Perkins (ph) just now saying that he talked to Mitt Romney about the thing that Governor Romney has promised to talk about at this convention, and that’s his own faith and his own (inaudible) background.  Have you had that conversation with him?  Do you have any advice about how he can handle that?

RICK SANTORUM:  The only advice that I’ve given the Romney campaign over the last few days about this convention is that Paul Ryan needs to lay out the vision in the way that I just described for those voters who I think are in the next to win this election.  And Mitt Romney has to tell people — open up a window as to who he is.

GWEN IFILL:  Why can’t Mitt Romney lay out the vision?  Why would it fall to the vice president?

RICK SANTORUM:  I think — oh, I just think that that’s what Ryan’s really good at.  And I think he — I mean, he’s the idea guy.  Look, when Mitt Romney put Paul Ryan on the ticket, Mitt Romney said, we’re going to make this campaign about ideas and vision.

And I — and brought — and Paul Ryan can do that.  Mitt Romney has to do that, which I’m not saying, you know, just (inaudible), you know, (inaudible) about, you know, going up to (inaudible) growing up as a kid and having a dog.

He needs to talk about — but he needs to do it in a way that opens up the door so people can see who — how this guy ticks, what — that he’s not just this CEO and, you know, that I hire and fire and I can run things and I can make things work.


DAVID BROOKS:  Well, you spent a bunch of months (inaudible) against him.  Have you — give us an episode, something happened where you saw he’s more than just the CEO?

RICK SANTORUM:  Well, you know, I’ll be very honest with you.  Other than the formal debates — you know this.  I mean, you don’t really see each other.  I mean, we’re off doing our own things.  The debates are really the only time (inaudible) little dancer as we stay, you know, waiting to go onstage.

And you know, Mitt always just came across as just a normal guy who talked about a whole variety of different things, everything from what was going on in the news to sports to family and I just found him to be pretty normal.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But you did meet  with him after a certain interval, after he dropped out of the race.  What was that meeting like? I mean, was it — did it feel natural in a way?  I mean, it had to be very hard for you.

RICK SANTORUM:  No, not at all.  I really mean that.  It wasn’t.  I mean, look, I got into this race for one reason.  I think Barack Obama’s a great threat to the future of our country.  And I think he’s destroying it on a multiple levels.  And when I got out, that didn’t change.

And my conviction is to do what I can and we didn’t talk at all about the race.  We didn’t talk at all about the campaign.  We talked about what my recommendation was that how I thought he could, you know, attract folks that maybe I was connecting with and talked about different issues and — but it was all, how do we do this?  And that’s what it’s been since.


MARK SHIELDS:  Senator, you’re describing a candidate who’s been quite effective and quite efficient.  But at the same time, we’re talking about somebody that we don’t know.  The American people don’t know at this point.

You spoke more openly and movingly on the night of the Iowa caucus, again last night, about the wake of your grandfather and his hands.  When do we get that from Mitt (inaudible)?  (Inaudible) get any of that from Mitt Romney?

RICK SANTORUM:  Yes, I — look, I hear you.  And you know, I look back and presidential politics, you guys (inaudible) coming for a few years.  And look at the guys who don’t win.  Al Gore, John Kerry, Michael Dukakis.

I mean, it’s all these sort of, you know, technocrats, machines, stiff people.  And it’s not that they don’t have accomplishment.  All of them had accomplishment that they could point to.  But they couldn’t get past the idea that they were — there was something deeper than that.

MARK SHIELDS:  Are you describing something that is a Massachusetts syndrome?  Dukakis, Kerry, Romney?


DAVID BROOKS:  You’ve got to lend him the sweat — the sweater vest.

RICK SANTORUM:  It’s — we’re still on back order.  (Inaudible) Minnesota.  I hate to say it, but it’s true.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Do you think his campaign , does he understand that he needs to get that across?  What it — what do you — what’s your sense —


GWEN IFILL:  What’s your advice about how to do it?

RICK SANTORUM:  You know, (inaudible) —

GWEN IFILL:  Other than putting Paul Ryan in?

RICK SANTORUM:  I did — I did offer that as advice back when I talked to him.  And —

GWEN IFILL:  Really?

RICK SANTORUM:  — this is what I believe.  I said people want to like you.  People want to — if they’re going to vote for someone, they — I think people want to like you.  I can tell you from — and I say that from my own example.  When I — you remember early in the campaign, when I was out there sitting on the end.

And I was this sort of, you know, sort of piss and vinegar angry no one was asking me any questions, and when they did, it was gay rights, you know, and that’s it.  And I was just, you know, stop it, you know, talk to me about  everyone you talk to everybody else about.  And I think I came across as a bit petulant.

And I remember — never forget one of the debates, early debates, I finished one of those petulant remarks.  And walked over to my wife, who is the salt and light for me, and tells me exactly what I don’t want to hear.  And but the truth.

And I walked over to her with a big smile, like a puppy dog does, right, and she said, she looked at me and she said, “Chill.”  She said, “Happy warrior.”  And it — you know, it took me a while.  It’s not easy.  It’s not easy to sort of, you know, feel like, wow, you’re — they’re being unfair and they’re beating me up and just say, it doesn’t matter.  Show people who you are.

GWEN IFILL:  Does this election turn on that?  I mean, we know that we’ve seen — we all the read the polls and we know that the president and Mitt Romney are kind of neck and neck, except for this likeability seems to keep it tight.  Does this election turn on that, his ability to chill?

RICK SANTORUM:  Americans, you know, the folks in the middle are in the middle because they don’t feel very strongly about the issues.  They’re not ideologically driven.  They vote on a feel.  And people say, well, that’s bad.  They shouldn’t be — no, I don’t think that’s necessarily bad.

I mean, feel — you know, getting a feel of the kind of character and quality of the leader of our country, maybe it’s bad if you’re voting for Congress that way because it doesn’t really matter whether your congressman’s,  you know, but it does matter as a leader.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hire the office.

RICK SANTORUM:  Hire the office, the more that intangible matters.  And so I think it is important.  It’s not something that — I know a lot of them, you know, the political pros dismiss that.  But don’t dismiss how important it is for people to feel good about their leaders.  They want to feel good.  They want to — they want — they want to be connected to them in some way.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So you’re saying — I mean, we’re almost halfway through this convention now.  This is halfway through the second of three nights.  Are you saying they’re going to miss a big opportunity if they don’t do it here?  Or does he have time to do it after Tampa?

RICK SANTORUM:  Look, it’s never too late.  But the later the hour, the steeper the mountain and because you’re, you know, not everybody’s going to be watching here tonight.  And you know, you have — at least so I’ve found.  I mean, you think you’re out there saying the same thing for a year, and that everybody in the world knows what you’re saying or knows who you are.

And I go to — I go to Little Italy in Cleveland.  And I do them, you know, the Feast of the  Assumption Mass and Parade through the city, and I run into a guy, very active in politics in Cleveland.  And I introduce (inaudible) and I said, you know, and I said, you know what, I’m Italian.

“Oh, I didn’t know you were Italian.”  What do you mean you don’t know I’m Italian?


RICK SANTORUM:  (Inaudible) what do you mean?  How can you not know that?

Well, that’s what they don’t — you have to understand is that not everybody’s really paying attention.

GWEN IFILL:  That’s where you’re on the (inaudible) wearing your sweater vest and being mistaken for a Greek or whatever?

RICK SANTORUM:  Yes.  That’s it.  “I thought you were Greek.”

GWEN IFILL:  After —

RICK SANTORUM:  That might have helped in some areas, by the way.

GWEN IFILL:  Would you do it again?

RICK SANTORUM:  Oh, this — what a — I don’t know if you got this from last night . I mean, it was — what a — what an amazing experience it was.  And you know this.  I mean, it’s just — it’s just a — this is a great country.

MARK SHIELDS:  I wanted to —

GWEN IFILL:  Would you do it again?


RICK SANTORUM:  (Inaudible) announcing —


MARK SHIELDS:  It just — if Mitt doesn’t chill and Barack Obama is elected for a second term, the — Mo Udall, the great congressman from Arizona (inaudible) said the only known cure for the presidential virus is embalming fluid.  Now are you — are you telling us that presidential virus is in your system and that doesn’t go away?

RICK SANTORUM:  I can honestly say that I didn’t have a virus.  I honestly —


RICK SANTORUM:  — I really never sat around and dreamed to be president.  I did it because I — of the situation in front of us.  And when I (inaudible) was that we were getting into and that I thought I brought something different to the table.  We’ll wait and see.

GWEN IFILL:  Well, Senator, we’re going to follow up on that question with you another time.  But thank you so much for joining us here —

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Thank you.

GWEN IFILL:  — tonight.  Good to see you.

RICK SANTORUM:  Yes.  Thanks for chipping in there, David.