Santorum lumps McCain, Dole, H.W. Bush into losing clan of GOP moderates
March 2nd, 2012
09:25 AM ET
3 years ago

Santorum lumps McCain, Dole, H.W. Bush into losing clan of GOP moderates

Pasco, Washington (CNN) – Rick Santorum continued to cast himself as a scrappy fighter against a mighty Republican "establishment" late Thursday – even lumping together former presidents and former presidential hopefuls into a losing clan of Republican moderates.

"You have an opportunity, here in Washington state, to join me …To say we want a conservative nominee for the Republican Party in the fall," Santorum told hundreds of supporters in Pasco, Washington, ahead of the state's caucuses on Saturday.

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"We want a conservative nominee because that's our best chance of winning. Look at the races in the last 30 years, we nominated a moderate: [John] McCain, [Bob] Dole, Gerald Ford. When George [H.W.] Bush ran for re-election back in 1992, after raising taxes and increasing spending. They all ran as moderates. We all lost," Santorum said.

"Every time we've run as a conservative, we've won," the candidate continued. "Why? Because Americans want a choice. If it's a difference between somebody, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, you know what, this country is going to probably going to stick with the person they know. We need to have a sharp contrast. Someone who paints a very different vision for America."

It's possible Santorum singled out those specific names because of their praise of GOP rival Mitt Romney. McCain and Dole have endorsed the former Massachusetts governor. And though the nation's 41st president has not officially endorsed a candidate, Bush called Romney the "best choice" for the GOP nomination in December.

During his speech, Santorum highlighted times he'd bucked his own party. And yet he did not play up his long history with the GOP "establishment." During his time in the Senate, he rose to the number three position in that chamber's GOP leadership.

During CNN's GOP debate in Phoenix, the former Pennsylvania senator even explained that "sometimes you take one for the team." In that specific reference, Santorum explained his "mistake" in voting for the No Child Left Behind education law that's unpopular with many conservatives.

Santorum frequently assails Romney as being less than truly conservative. But the tactic appears to be taking on increased urgency as both men vie for the delegates needed to win their party's nomination.

"We have an opportunity, here in the state of Washington, to nominate someone not just who can win the election," Santorum told the crowd. "We're going to need someone who's going to have to run a campaign that's actually about ideas instead of just trying to beat up your opponent."

It's a feat Santorum insisted he could accomplish.

"Why do I say that? Well first, I've actually run as a conservative and got elected in a state that we have to win in order to win the presidency. Gov. Romney has never run as a conservative in a general election."

Romney spokesman Andrea Saul said Santorum's comments are a sign he "can't accept the fact that he lost Arizona and Michigan."

"Four years ago, when he was speaking candidly, he said Mitt Romney would 'stand up for the conservative principles that we hold dear.' In comparison, Sen. Santorum admitted he 'took one for the team' in Washington by voting against those principles," Saul said in an email. "This is yet another case of Sen. Santorum abandoning principle for his own political advantage."

–Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Also see:

Seattle Times supports Romney as 'default choice' ahead of caucuses

Paul flier hits the other candidates

Gingrich robo call labels Santorum 'union bosses' pal'

Michigan results provoke accusations, ire


Filed under: 2012 • Bob Dole • George H.W. Bush • John McCain • Rick Santorum • Washington
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Seattle Sue

    The crazy religious nut that is running for POPE of the USA forgot to include Ronald Reagan.

    March 2, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  2. Steven Colo

    Denying history. He's picked every GOP nominee since Reagan, and labeled everyone except Reagan and W as a moderate. He omitted Goldwater, who was so extreme (his views were moderate compared to Santorum) that he alienated the electorate and got crushed. He omitted that Reagan was moderate by today's standards. And W could be a success only that he got elected – his policies enraged the country and led to an Obama landslide.

    It also bothers me that his only criterion is conservative cred. He ignores character, capability, and ability to get things done, none of which he has at all.

    March 2, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  3. Ancient Texan

    He's right. The moderates have not had the conservative vote in the past and none of those he named had a fire-in-the-belly desire to fight for the office.

    March 2, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  4. rs

    And I'll lump Santorum into the losing class of brown-shirt Republican theocrats.

    March 2, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. The Real Tom Paine

    Its funny. I seem to remember Bob Dole as being very conservative: I guess when you commit the sin of working with the opposing party for the good of the countryand you end up getting things done, its heresy to the Righties who want us all to march to their music in their torchlight parade. Ford ditched Rockefeller for Dole as a VP, and came within a hair's breath of retaining the presidency for the GOP. Bush lost because the economy tanked and conservatives abandoned him over raising taxes to engineer a recovery. Dole was running against a sitting president with a recovering economy and a House run by Newt: you figure it out. McCain lost because the economy was tanking after rightioe stewardship, anyone see a pattern with them?) and the GOP had contolled all 3 branched of government for most of the pervious 8 years : he kowtowed to the conservatives and launched the unguided missile known as Sarah Palin onto the national scene. They did not lose because they weren't conservative enough: they lost because of events that were often beyond their control. If Santorum's thesis were correct, Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, and Sharon Angle would be sitting in the Senate: are they?

    March 2, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  6. Dennis Freeman

    If only Santorum could get the nomination, he could join Barry Goldwater and start a new clan of losers – extreme conservatives that lose by landslides.

    March 2, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  7. MediaStudent

    "We're going to need someone who's going to have to run a campaign that's actually about ideas instead of just trying to beat up your opponent."

    Apparently, he lost touch with reality for a second that is some Grade-A, Major League pandering. "Beating up on your opponent" is all the GOP candidates have been doing during this primary, both on themselves and Obama.

    March 2, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  8. linell ela, Winter Park, FL

    He forgot to include himself...an oversight, I am sure.

    March 2, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  9. Durundal

    someone smack this village idiot upside the head, he's clearly run amok and doesnt know when to quit. Obstinate and unwavering when even faced with his own mistakes. Some holy warrior..

    March 2, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  10. Larry L

    The man believes the Earth is less than 6000 years old. He thinks contraception is evil. He does not believe in separation of church and state. We could simply elect the Pope and directly place the Catholic Church in control of the Executive Branch.

    March 2, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  11. NVa Native

    So if only moderates loose why did the Great Satanorum lose elections?
    And he is no moderate on any level, so maybe it's just that the best candidate wins?
    No – that was proven wrong with the Dubya – he certainly was/is the worst.
    But if Satanorum won (and the earth did survive) his never ending failures as President would surely help soften Dubya's legacy failure.

    March 2, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  12. Jeffer65

    A Republican attacking his own. How very Christian of him. So much for his Catholic values. Someone needs to remind him that there other people in the US besides conservatives. Perhaps he should be reminded that he voted with Bush 43 on everything. Hey Ricky, what about those earmarks you got for your state? Even if I agreed with him on the issues and could tolerate his arrogance and Catholic snobbery, I can't vote for him. He does not seem like a good leader and cannot control his gaffes.

    March 2, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  13. AvgGuyinKansas

    Frankenstein, The Creature From The Black Lagoon, Dracula. All scary guys! "President Santorum"? The scariest of them all.

    March 2, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  14. Ozzie

    You're an embarrassment, Senator. Please just go home, go on retreat, and work out some of your dreadful inner conflicts – conflicts which you so willingly want to impose on the rest of us. You seem like a good boy. You just hate too many people to be President. Just go home.

    March 2, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  15. Festerfree

    Nobody wants an extremist. Ever. This man's recent comments have disgusted me. He has no respect for our nation's history, our nation's diverse make up of people from all walks of life, religious and non-religious, gay and straight. Next thing he'll do is start bashing single moms as somehow not having moral values because they couldn't keep a man!
    He's a hater! We don't need haters leading the free world. There's enough of that already.

    March 2, 2012 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  16. wwf

    This man is an idiot of the highest order.

    March 2, 2012 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  17. Greg in Arkansas

    "Tweedledum and Tweedledee".....which one are you???

    March 2, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. The REAL Truth

    Moderates or not, the question is do you want this extreme right-winger dictating:
    What you do in your bedroom and whether you should have kids or not?
    That you should be home-schooling your kids (kinda tough to do with both parents in the average household needing to work to make ends meet)?
    That you should be in church on Sunday?
    That gays are wrong!
    That he's correct and you are not?
    YOU have to chose in August!

    March 2, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    Rick Santorum is re-writing history. True, moderate candidates lost. But, those moderate candidates were nominated because more conservative candidates were being rejected by the country at large. Why? Because the more conservative candidates had won, and enacted policies that severely damaged the economy. The conservative moderates lost because The People didn't trust them *because* of their more conservative predecessors.

    March 2, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  20. steve

    what a MORON, open mouth insert Foot and Bilbe, bye bye Lil ricky you are gone, FINALLY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 2, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  21. Todd M

    Did he mention that he also lost running as a conservative as well?

    March 2, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  22. Chris

    Mr Santorum...You also got voted OUT ot the state that you need to win, remember?
    I think you should start your own party, and perhaps you own religion so you stop offending good Christian

    March 2, 2012 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  23. ren

    Keep that toothy smile out of my personal space. If he's going to throw-up at someone 's beliefs, let them be his own. He makes me throw-up.

    March 2, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  24. anagram_kid

    Sen. Santorum said. “Every time we've run as a conservative, we've won," the candidate continued. "Why? Because Americans want a choice.”
    He does not understand that conservatism is against choice as it infers change. The very basis of conservatism is that things don’t change.
    Obama 2012 – Because intelligence matters

    March 2, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  25. BigTBone

    Yes, Rick. Become even more conservative. That's brilliant. I shall start erecting the town dunk tank for witch trials immediately just in case you win the nomination.

    Keep this religified freak as far away from the white house as possible. At least maybe his google problem has subsided for awhile. That's almost as good as winning...

    March 2, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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