On today's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, guest host Jonathan Karl interviewed Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum as he touted himself as the "genuine article." Pennsylvanians everywhere spit coffee on the morning paper as they watched:
KARL: Former Senator Rick Santorum joins us now. Good morning, Senator.
SANTORUM: Good morning, Jonathan. Good to be with you.
KARL: So, Senator, front page of the New York Times today has a big headline saying Republicans are girding for a fight on the convention floor. You have been saying this for days, saying that basically nobody can really get a majority of the delegates before the convention. Are you saying essentially that your best chance of winning this nomination is a fight on the convention floor?
SANTORUM: Well, we still believe that there are plenty of delegates out there for us to do what we have been doing, which is actually going out there and winning states and winning the tough battles, and doing so over pretty overwhelming odds. If you consider the fact that we're, you know, to deal with Congressman Gingrich, Speaker Gingrich, who is in this race and certainly pulling more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney, and being outspent. You know, here in Illinois, when I was just there yesterday, you know, by 10 to 1, yet we're hanging in there, we're fighting, we're climbing, because we have got the best message, the best contrast with President Obama and the best vision for our country. And I think that's what people are responding to, and I think they're getting tired of the negative ads. They're getting tired of just tearing down the other side, which is what Romney has been doing now for two elections in a row, and really providing no real vision for the country.
KARL: But how likely do you think it is that this is going to come to a battle on the convention floor? As you know, this is something that Romney has said would doom the party's chances against Barack Obama?
SANTORUM: I don't it dooms anybody's chances. Look, this is a primary process where somebody had a huge advantage, huge money advantage, huge advantage of establishment support, and he hasn't been able to close the deal and even come close to closing the deal. That tells you that there's a real flaw there. And the fact that we're able to do this, just by having a, as I said before, a great message, and the American people, Republicans and conservatives, lining up behind us -- enthusiastically doing so -- fighting the establishment, you know, clawing our way, you know, into contention here. It just tells you that people are looking for something different, they are looking for something that they can, you know, go after President Obama and make the contrast.
You know, as I was saying yesterday out on the road in Illinois, I mean, there's just -- there is increasingly -- the more I look at the record of Governor Romney and match it up against Barack Obama, I feel like I'm doing a training run for the general election. The same issues I'm out there campaigning on against Governor Romney are the same issues I'm going to campaign against Barack Obama on, which is, you know, the government overreach in health care, and cap-and-trade, trying to control the manufacturing and energy sector of the economy. And of course, you know, the bailouts. All of these things are -- you know, unfortunately Governor Romney and Barack Obama are in the same place. So that's one of the reasons you are not seeing him close the deal is mandates.
Remember when he just said people are "getting tired of just tearing down the other side"? Ha ha, just kidding!
KARL: Are you saying that there's not much difference between Romney and Obama?
SANTORUM: On those issues, there clearly isn't. And as you know, Jonathan, those were the issues that really spurred our victory in 2010 was this idea of government mandates and control of the economy, and you know, the bailouts, and the attempt to try to take over the energy use in our country through cap-and-trade, and of course the successful takeover of the economy, Obamacare. Governor Romney is on the same page as Barack Obama on all of these issues. And that's what, again, you see conservatives all across this country rejecting someone who they don't see a difference between this president. We can't be out there nominating someone who gives away the most important issues that conservatives care about in this election when it comes to the economy.
That's funny. I could have sworn that the Republicans won in 2010 because of "jobs, jobs, jobs" and the economy! Oh yeah, the economy -- and the stealth ads that went unanswered that so erroneously painted Democrats as working to cut Medicare. But maybe that's just me.
KARL: You know, Gingrich has suggested, Newt Gingrich has suggested that he's actually helping you out here, that by staying in the race he's making it harder for Romney to get a majority of the delegates. I imaging you don't see it that way, but if this -- you believe this is a two-man race. Is it time for a head-to-head debate, you against Mitt Romney?
SANTORUM: I would love to have a head-to-head debate with Governor Romney. The idea, for example, you know, he pushes back and says Romneycare is nothing like Obamacare and he never advocated for it, which of course he did, in op-eds as well as on television programs. And even in the 2008 election, when he got up and was questioned by Fred Thompson in the 2008 election, Governor Romney said mandates, I love mandates. Mandates work, this is what we need to do, we need to force people to buy insurance, and he defended his record in Massachusetts, and in fact argued for exactly what President Obama put in place, was a government-mandated health care program at the federal level.
I would love to be able to get one-on-one with Governor Romney and expose the record that would be the weakest record we could possibly put up against Barack Obama. And that is again, why I believe ultimately, you know, we did very well yesterday in Missouri. I think we're going to do really, really well in Illinois, even though we're, again, you know, we're being outspent, and of course Congressman Gingrich is on the ballot, and certainly the speaker is taking a lot more votes from us than he is from Governor Romney. But still, we're hanging in there because people are seeing, they're coming around to the fact that we can't nominate such a weak candidate in the general election.
Yep. The mandates that the Republicans suggested! You remember, the insurance company insisted on them and as we know, Republicans never say no to the insurance companies.
KARL: OK, well, I just heard from you a challenge for a head-to-head debate against Mitt Romney, and I will in turn give you an invitation. We can do it right here on This Week. Are you in?
SANTORUM: I accept. I'd love to do it. I -- see if Governor Romney is willing to come out. He's been turning down every single debate. He's hiding behind the billionaires who funding his super PAC and spending outrageous amounts of money, all running negative ads, tearing down the opponent on specious issues, not talking about the issues that people are talking about at their kitchen table. And in fact, a lot of the criticisms that he's leveling against me are things that he himself has done, and in fact far worse, like giving money to Planned Parenthood personally and funding abortion clinics while he was governor of Massachusetts with taxpayer dollars. I mean, this is someone who will say anything to get elected, and I think, again, people are recognizing they want the genuine article.
"The genuine article." I can tell you here in Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum is known as anything but. He's the con artist who scammed a local school district into paying for his children's distance-learning program -- after he moved his entire family to Virginia, yet pretended to still live here. Staunch conservative? More like a political opportunist.
And finally, Rick the Family Man? All I can say is, as his profile rises, expect to hear more on the matter. If you don't, Romney's oppo research team just isn't doing its job.