February 12th, 2012
12:03 PM ET
2 years ago

Santorum: ‘This is a two-person race’

(CNN) – Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Sunday declared himself Mitt Romney’s main competitor, essentially dismissing Newt Gingrich as a frontrunner.

“We think this is a two-person race right now,” Santorum said, referring to Romney, on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We’re focused on making sure that folks know that we’re the best alternative to Barack Obama.”

His comments follow new poll results that show the former Pennsylvania senator surging in the race. Gallup’s national daily tracking poll on Saturday indicated Santorum in second place with 24% behind Romney at 34%. Meanwhile, Gingrich fell to third place with 17% support.

In addition, a new survey released Friday showed Santorum in first place in Tennessee, which holds its primary on Super Tuesday on March 6, followed by Romney in second and Gingrich in third.

The poll results followed big wins for Santorum in the Republican nominating contest this week that sparked more than $3 million in a fundraising haul. He plans to campaign heavily in Michigan and Arizona ahead of their upcoming primaries on February 28.

Despite a high-profile appearance at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, Santorum failed to win the event’s closely-watched straw poll.

To the surprise of many political observers, Romney won the symbolic contest with roughly 38% of the vote, besting Santorum's 31% support. The gathering is known for drawing social conservatives and, more recently, tea party supporters - two blocs within the Republican Party that Santorum needs to win to position himself as the main conservative alternative to Romney.

Santorum suggested Sunday that Romney won the CPAC straw poll by paying supporters to show up and vote, a tactic he said fellow candidate Ron Paul also has used in the past.

"There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s absolutely a strategy. We just don’t think that’s a good use of our resources, and Gov. Romney, obviously, you know, may have a different idea,” Santorum told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

Responding to his comments Sunday, Romney's campaign said "Santorum has a history of making statements that aren't grounded in the truth" and pointed to Romney's win in the Maine caucuses Saturday night, as well as a separate nationwide survey of conservatives conducted by CPAC organizers

“Conservative voters recognize that in order to change Washington, we need someone who isn't a creature of Washington," Andrea Saul, Romney spokesperson, said in a statement.

On the program, Santorum also was asked about his past support as senator of increased federal money for Amtrak, the national rail line that he now opposes funding.

Santorum said he was simply protecting the interests of his state at the time, particularly the important Amtrak service to Philadelphia.

“That’s an important piece of the economic viability of that very busy and congested corridor,” Santorum said. “We’re at a very, very different time now with the economy of this country and the budget deficits, and Amtrak funding is going to be one of those things that just has to go.”

However, Santorum denied that his former support for Amtrak to protect his home state was comparable to Romney’s support as governor of Massachusetts of a state-specific health care program under which people were required to buy a product.

“It’s very different than having the government mandate that you buy health insurance,” Santorum said. “There are certainly legitimate arguments as to whether we should fund Amtrak or not, but that is a very different thing than a fundamental takeover of a sector of the economy.”

Clearly enjoying his new momentum in the Republican presidential race, Santorum continued to tout his social conservative appeal.

In another interview Sunday morning, Santorum was asked about the observation that his trademark sweater vests and boy-next-door persona prompted comparisons to Richie Cunningham, the all-American character played by Ron Howard on the television show "Happy Days."

He said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that in view of some of the things going on in American popular culture, "a little bit of Richie Cunningham wouldn’t be a bad thing for our society right now."

– CNN’s Tom Cohen contributed to this report.

Also see:

Palin calls on Romney to work harder for the conservative vote

Soros undecided on pro-Obama super PAC

Lew defends new contraception policy

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Rick Santorum • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (176 Responses)
  1. ThinkAgain

    @GI Joe.: "We rejected a theocracy 200 years ago, we'll reject it again in 2012."

    Yep, but don't get complacent; the GOP is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, from requiring government ID where none was required before, to moving up voter registration dates to keep college students from voting.

    All you Dems, Independents and thinking Republicans need to be sure to GET OUT AND VOTE on November 6, 2012 for President Obama and Democratic majorities in the House and Senate!

    Obama/Biden 2012

    February 12, 2012 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  2. ThinkAgain

    @Four and The Door in criticizing ARALE NORIMAKI's comment about Ricky being a lawyer for for professional wrestling...
    "You are not one to bother yourself with the real issues of the nation, are you?"

    As opposed to the GOP who cares only about divisive social issues and doesn't propose anything except more tax cuts for the rich?

    Do a little research, Four, and you'll see that historically our country fairs better under Democratic Administrations than Republican, in particular, economically.

    We're also safer: GW Bush = bin Laden/al Qaeda attacks on 9/11
    Obama = bin Laden dead and al Qaeda marginalized

    February 12, 2012 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. albie

    If Santorum is the republican candidate, I am going to vote for Obama.

    February 12, 2012 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  4. Will

    You want to energize the Democratic base....nominate Santorum.

    February 12, 2012 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  5. SFRich

    Rick Santorum is irrelevant. The American electorate—as stupid as it is—would never elect him. His extreme views are so narrow they are like a Catholic-inspired tunnel vision, and he just doesn't get the fact that he would need to be president of ALL the US people, not the Catholic people.

    I'm also amused how all the GOP candidates are doing their best to win the Mr. Uber Conservative pageant. The fact is, America DOESN'T WANT a president that's conservative. They want someone pragmatic and moderate, someone who till bring this country together and get us out of the mess the last conservative president got us into. That's why Obama was elected, and it's why he'll be reelected.

    February 12, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  6. Betty Franks

    Yes is it s a two person race, Mitt and Obama. Final score at Potus = Rick 0, Obama 2

    February 12, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. tosser

    As Ron Paul's "slow and steady wins the race" campaign continues to pick up steam.

    Ron Paul 2012. There is no other choice.

    February 12, 2012 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. Brian

    "We rejected a theocracy 200 years ago, we'll reject it again in 2012.".................................Don't count on that. Our three worst presidents, Harding, LBJ and Nixon were elected by landslides. Many people in this country leave their brain at the door when they vote.

    February 12, 2012 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Tom Wittmann

    THE GAME GINGRICH, SANTORUM ... and also PAUL are playing is becoming apparent: each of them hopes that al thre will arrive to the convention adding the 3 more than 50% of delegates and rhan negotiate between them the winner

    They do not realize that the ultraconservative population, between them the nuts which are convinced we are in the year 5712 of the world existence, are not well represented in the large states, nor will gAt any deligates in the "winner gets all" ones.

    Anybody meaninful knows that, beginning by the media, which remains silent as if people realize such, they will earn less money!!

    February 12, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  10. Bad_Dog

    Santorum is the flavor of the day, that is all. The Right-Wing GOP members, and the Regan Conservatives have
    NO DOG in this race, therefore they stumble around, and back and forth.

    Santorum recently got a bump because he recently came across as the most angry white man in the room,
    a persona the GOP Right and in particular the Bible Thumpers like.

    Enjoy your 15 minutes candidate Santorum – it's just about over.
    Then, you may go back to being the President! -> of the "World Is Flat Club."

    February 12, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. arale norimaki

    to Four and The Door

    WWE's formal acknowledgement that their product is "sports entertainment" has saved the company millions of dollars in taxes and state athletic commission fees. It also deregulated the pro wrestling industry and eliminated government oversight.

    February 12, 2012 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  12. Cindy

    If I have to vote between a Catholic and a Mormon, I will take the Mormon. The Catholics like to dictate your freedoms and beliefs.

    February 12, 2012 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  13. casey

    This guy was defeated in his own state by 18 points in a senatorial election when he was the incumbent. Can you spell 'landslide'.

    February 12, 2012 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. Elia

    What planet is this guy on?

    February 12, 2012 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  15. Pete/Ark

    I wish my late father could talk to these clowns...he taught me early on that there is a vast difference between merely being male and being a man...it's a shame that they can only pretend...maybe we can call it a "two spoiled wilfull child race".

    February 12, 2012 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Na

    Paul and his team know what they are doing. The rigging and manipulation offered by mainstream politics and media wont stop the truth from revealing itself. The masses are waking up and are wanting real change, not just hyperbole.

    February 12, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. j mann

    It WOULD be a two man race if either of them were real men.

    February 12, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  18. cali girl

    Santo, time to turn out the lights, your party's over. You have, like, less than 20 delegates, and you need about 10 times that. I can hear your fat lady singing, and no offense to the fat lady.

    February 12, 2012 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  19. Santorum is a lot like Dan Quayle...

    If he gets the nomination. The GOP will be crushed in the general.

    February 12, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  20. Leigh

    What has to be made front and center is this.

    Rick Santorum as said, publicly, that he does NOT believe that American adults have ANY right to privacy, not even in their own homes. He has said this, people. Now, what does that mean to you?

    At the very least, it means that as President, Santorum believes he has the power to authorize law enforcement to kick in your front door just...because. Maybe to be sure we're leading "Godly lives". This from a guy who already has said he thinks homosexual sex should be illegal, as well as contraception, divorce, and premarital hetero sex, and who wants to make Christian prayer MANDATORY in public schools, along with the forced teaching of creationism.

    How does THAT sit with you people, especially you guys who claim you're for SMALL GOVERNMENT!?!?!

    That doesn't sound very small to ME.

    Anyone but Santorum in 2012!

    February 12, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. Charlie

    Santorum is a joke. I don't know how he gained all this support? He's like the flavor of the month. Just as Gingrich was in early December. The bottom line is that Santorum can't win against Obama because he has zero appeal to independents. He is too much of a social conservative in a time when we need a fiscal conservative more than anything. The only candidate running on true fiscal conservatism is Ron Paul, and he doesn't get taken seriously. The future does not look bright, if you ask me.

    February 12, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  22. ddblah

    "That’s an important piece of the economic viability of that very busy and congested corridor."

    Now you opposes it? Why?

    February 12, 2012 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. More Alabama

    Y'all keep fighting, squabbling and calling each other names...you make the president look better all the time.

    February 12, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Sandy

    What a sad collection of candidates the GOP has produced. We don't need vitriol and name-calling to be able to distinguish among serious candidates. Except for Paul, these other 3 Republicans are simply pandering for votes. They have nothing to commend them to run this country. As for Paul, while he is more honest than these other 3, his ideas are just not supported by very many Americans. It's time to recognize that we need an adult to be President and that Obama is the closest thing we have to one. So, let's cut the crap, stop the pandering, and understand that our only option is Obama.

    February 12, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Jason, Tenafly, NJ

    Agree with Anthony. None of the GOP candidates can win the general election.

    GM Saved
    End of pointless national screwup in Iraq
    Bin Laden Dead
    Qaddafi Dead
    Healthcare reform
    Student Loan Reform
    Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    Works for me.

    February 12, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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