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

    jeeze, can't this guy go away? He's insane.

    March 2, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. Lynn

    You stay in that race Rick–we love to see just how far Willard will go to the right to get to the Oval Office. Never saw a comedy like this GOP race in my life. That Blunt interview Willard had was spectacular-less than an hour for the flip-flop and the lame spin that the question confused him.

    March 2, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  3. Bill in Florida

    What Santorum doesn't say about Pennsylvania is that he got clobbered during his reelection bid. PA voters realized their mistake the first time around and voted him out of office.

    March 2, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  4. maggie

    This article spells out exactly what is wrong with Santorum and the GOP today. They've gone way to the right to the point where "compromise" is seen as a bad word in a world where compromise is the name of the game to get anything done. While he panders to a certain base, the fact of the matter is that most americans are somewhere in the middle. they care more about some issues than they do others and we are not all lock step about those issues. This is why the GOP is not going to succeed this election year.

    March 2, 2012 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  5. jarhead

    Yeah you won Ricky. Then the people of Ohio found out what a nutcase you are, and sent your raggidy butt packing. Oh, and keep bashing your own party members that are well respected WW2 and Vietnam war heroes(Crusades don't count), that will get you over.

    March 2, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  6. Randy, San Francisco

    Santorum should expain why he lost his last US Senate race.

    March 2, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  7. Jess C

    And soon he can include himself on the "loser" list, just like Romney will in Nov.

    March 2, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  8. Butch O'hare

    Rick – buddy boy, you might want to think twice about bashing popular politicians who have a following. After having maligned JFK, John McCain, GH Bush, Bob Dole and Gerald Ford, do you really think that people who admired those individuals will want to vote for you? Dude, don't worry – you've got the Bible Belt locked up. If you want any chance of winning the nomination, stop trashing people!

    March 2, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  9. Thomas

    "Someone who paints a very different vision for America."

    Unfortunately for him, his vision is not acceptable for many citizens. A dominonist president is not good for the country.

    March 2, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. The Dude

    Ricky is fighting for his political life. I expect he will be eliminated in the next round of primaries. We can only hope.

    March 2, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  11. alkarrk

    Hogswallop. Romney 2012!

    March 2, 2012 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  12. Nothiga

    Here is my plan on HOW I will reduce the deficits:

    I will REDUCE taxes on "job creators".

    I will PRESERVE medicare and social security.

    I will NOT CUT a dime on military spending.

    You can see I am SEVERELY conservative.

    I hope you are NOT smart enough to.......

    March 2, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Rick is just being stupid now. He had his chance, and he had to act like the ayatolla of the catholic church. Go home Rick, and let the Mittens fall where he may.

    March 2, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  14. Dave3000

    Santorum is mixed up between being a conservative being a Bible-Thumper... I would never vote for any Republican, but Santorum is as far right as it gets...McCain and Dole know that's not a winning ticket...Santorum just does not understand that Americans want fair and rational leaders, not extremes...Nobody will beat President Obama...When you listen to the President speak, it is hard to imagine how you can't agree with him when he speaks of envisioning an America where everyone has a fair chance...where young Americans can afford to go to college...Then you listen to Santorum and he supports an America where we are "probing" women against their will and trashing higher education as being to liberal for the America he envisions... Sadly...The rest running with Santorum for the nomination agree with his position in one way or another... This is a no-brainer folks....Obama 2012

    March 2, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. Robert

    Aww! Go ahead. I want the GOP to nominate the most conservative candidate they can, who will then lose to Obama in a landslide. This will be the best medicine yet for the GOP. If Romney gets nominated and loses to Obama, we will still have this stupid conversation "if only the GOP was more conservative". I am sick and tired of the far-right hijacking one of our major political parties. It is time to cut them off! Let them have their way, and let them burn down the house.

    March 2, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
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