February 12th, 2012
12:03 PM ET
3 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. Emmy Skaddittle

    how does santourm think he can get the independent or even the non religious zealot vote

    February 12, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. dan

    Absolutely amazing how so many can denigrate a man with the character of Rick Santorum. It speaks volumes as to how degenerate our society has become.

    February 12, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  3. Larry L

    @WAKE UP PEOPLE

    "EVERYONE needs to rally around Santorum as the man that can defeat Oh-bumma."
    ----------------------------------------------
    Santorum believes the Earth is less than 6000 years old. He's shown his willingness to start a war with Iran – although all "chicken-hawks" he's never served a day in uniform. He's willing to send other people's children to die but his family will of course sit in church and pray... Republicans have nothing to offer and you can tell that by the miserable turnout at the polls. The Tea Party poisoned this election for the GOP by supporting kooks like Bachman and Santorum.

    February 12, 2012 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  4. Keith

    HA! If it had been Trump saying that, we would have known he meant himself and his ego.

    February 12, 2012 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  5. Chris

    The media is lying. Ron Paul has won Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Missouri and now Maine. Don't believe what the media is telling you because they are liars. Polls show him to be at 53% of the republican party.

    February 12, 2012 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  6. John/kc

    How would a person like Santorum get elected as a Senator from Pennsylvania in the first place? Was he pushing Catholic doctrine as a Senator? It is beyond me to understand why anyone would vote for a Catholic for public office. You know, if you are a Catholic public office holder, you better vote as the Bishops direct you, or you will not receive communion.

    February 12, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  7. LOL

    more like a two man race between Romney and Paul. While Santorum "won" those states' in terms of popular votes last week, Paul swept up the majority of the delegates.

    February 12, 2012 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  8. KC Yankee

    The video is scary. The guy closes his eyes and shakes his head every time he's telling a lie. And he does it a lot.

    February 12, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  9. Nick

    Rick, you are not alternate solution at all. It is a 2-person right, Obama and Mitt and you will be forgotten in no time (thank God for that).

    February 12, 2012 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  10. Robert

    I absolutely LOVE the fact that Gingrich is irrelevant now.

    February 12, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  11. fandancy

    Actually, it's probably a 3 man race. Sentorum against Romney & vice loser, Trump, who will do anything possible for attention. By allying himself with Romney, Trump will assure that Romney's poll numbers will have a hard time getting very high. It's hard to focus on Romney with the "Comb-over King" on the stage with him.

    February 12, 2012 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  12. jimbojoker

    wow tweedle dee or tweedle ...

    February 12, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  13. David Mann

    Santorum is a coward. When that woman at one of his rallies got up and emotionally declared that President Obama was a Muslim Santorum had the perfect opportunity to show some integrity and publicly denounce that fairy tale. He, and anyone else with half a brain, know that particular accusation is a lie. He chose to say nothing. I don't want a coward like that representing America.

    February 12, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  14. Vera Waitress

    Which is more frightening, that this bag of hateful crap is running for president, or that thousands of nut-jobs are voting for him?

    People, we get it, you're desperate to bring religion to the Oval office, but this isn't the guy. He brought home his wife's still born child home for the other kids to "play with" for two whole days. That's freaking demented with a capital "oh God!" He treats gay men and women like second class citizens. His family and children look like they're tortured on a daily basis. He can't stop talking about religion, and with the office needing someone with international diplomatic skills [like Obama], this guy is clearly unfit and myopic in his singular focus. In fact, he's the most laughably limited candidate to come along since Sarah Palin.

    God help Rick Santorum. And God help the pathetic fervent Christian ding-a-lings who can't see past their own voracious hunger for spiritual validation.

    Jesus, save us from your people.

    February 12, 2012 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  15. trick

    Pope SANTORUM IS FAR MORE MORE LIBERAL SPENDING FISCAL RECORD..hei are u have proof Mitt rigs CPAC

    February 12, 2012 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  16. macallen23

    Santorum spends a lot of time talking about "two man" related stuff.
    Actually, he's right. It is a two man race; Obama and the guy who's going to lose to him in November. Book it.

    February 12, 2012 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  17. Lenny Pincus

    Santorum is obsessed with sex and for good reason. His wife had a six year relationship with a dashing abortion doctor. I guess Rick and wifey are trying to live it down, but it must kill him to think about it. So he takes it out on the public,

    February 12, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  18. Dick Hertz

    The lights are on but nobody's home. Somebody slap that fool and wake him up. It may be a two or three man race in November? And assclown Rick won't be part of it. Ron Paul 2012.

    February 13, 2012 12:05 am at 12:05 am |
  19. lulz

    And now every not Romney candidate has claimed a two-man race at some point, and usually right before becoming irrelevant again. Oh the lulz of it all.

    February 13, 2012 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  20. papafritz57

    Sanctimonious Rick stands before God and Country and lies through his teeth, he smears and defames our nation's President to for political gain and still tries to sell his Catholic soul for profit. What kind of man commits a mortal sin by bearing false witness against our President and presents himself as more moral than others? Sanctimonious Rick doesn't want to work for a living, he just wants to do what dumb lil Bush did and earn presidentials wages and benefits for doing nothing. lil Bush let Uncle BigDick run the country and damn near destroy our military, while spent over 1000 days on vacation clearing brush at the Crawford ranch. Ricky wants to puff out his chest and say look at me, I am the holiest of them all, while screwing the poorest Americans out of the first chance ever of having access to health insurance for themselves and their children. Don't you wonder just what is preached in all of their churches on Sunday?
    Apparently taking care of God's poorest chlldren isn't a part of their religious dogma, but controlling our sex lives is. Who the hell is their God anyway?

    February 13, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  21. RealityCheck

    It's a two-person race, yes, but it's Paul v. Obama and Liberty wins. Wake Up! You're finished and stand zero chance against Obama. Zero. End yourself and save your dollars for 2016 to run against Paul.

    February 13, 2012 04:10 am at 4:10 am |
  22. hansdick

    Go Rick.Let the hilarity continue.

    February 13, 2012 04:59 am at 4:59 am |
  23. mr.USA

    This nut will never be elected

    February 13, 2012 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  24. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    How many flavors of the week does this make? Obama/Biden 2012!

    February 13, 2012 05:47 am at 5:47 am |
  25. GI Joe.

    He's not cramming his version of his god down my throat!

    I think he has a problem with women because HIS MOM MADE MORE MONEY THAN HIS DADDY. Had to be somewhat emasculating back then.

    February 13, 2012 06:03 am at 6:03 am |
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