March 19th, 2012
08:39 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney jumps on Santorum over unemployment comments

(CNN) - Mitt Romney's campaign seized on a comment by Rick Santorum Monday, in which the former Pennsylvania senator mentioned he does not care about the unemployment rate.

Following Santorum's speech in Moline, Illinois, Romney's team blasted out an email to reporters with a link to a five-second clip of Santorum saying: "I don't care what the unemployment rate is going to be. It doesn't matter to me."

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But Romney's campaign did not include the full picture of Santorum's remarks. At the time, the candidate was repeating an argument he often makes on the campaign trail, saying the overriding issue of the race should be freedom and health care, not the economy.

"We need a candidate who's going to be a fighter for freedom–who's going to get up and make that the central theme in this race, because it is the central theme in this race. I don't care what the unemployment rate is going to be. It doesn't matter to me. My campaign doesn't hinge on unemployment rates and growth rates. There's something more foundational that's going on here," Santorum said.

In context, Republicans often cite the unemployment rate as a knock against President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

Making his case about health care, Santorum frequently claims Romney would be a weak candidate on the topic and points to the health care law he oversaw as Massachusetts governor, which critics describe as a blueprint for Obama's health care bill that passed in 2010.

After the event, he sought to clear up his remarks, telling reporters that he is concerned about the unemployment rate.

“Of course I care about the unemployment rate, I want the unemployment rate to go down, but I’m saying my candidacy doesn’t hinge on whether the unemployment rate goes up or down," Santorum said. "Our candidacy is about something that transcends things, about freedom."

But in the email from Romney's campaign, spokeswoman Andrea Saul criticized Santorum over his original comment about unemployment.

"Wow. Sen. Santorum may not care about the unemployment rate in this country or the nearly 24 million Americans struggling for work, but Mitt Romney does and is running to get people back to work," Saul said.

Later, at a campaign event in Peoria, Romney himself took a jab at Santorum's statement.

"I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me," Romney said. "I want to get people back to work. I am concerned about those how are out of work. One of the reasons I am running is to put my experience in place so we can put people back to work and get America strong again with a strong economy."

Later, Santorum's spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement to CNN that Romney's team was "trying to deceive voters."

"Rick was making the point that the Santorum campaign is not based solely on unemployment rates - it's based on returning freedom and restoring this country's greatness - and that it's a mistake for anyone to try and reduce the idea of America to just the 'economy.' Sadly, Mitt Romney thinks this country and this election should be reduced to math, money and spreadsheets," Gidley said.

– CNN's Jim Acosta, Peter Hamby and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Also see:

Santorum hits back at 'economic lightweight' charge

Republicans ramp up efforts to slam Obama health law

Poll: Romney lead widens in Illinois


Filed under: 2012 • Economy • Illinois • Mitt Romney • Rick Santorum • unemployment
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. GI Joe.

    Santorum gives me the creeps.

    He and his Theocratic theories have got to be stopped.

    March 19, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  2. informed voter

    What freedoms is Santorum talking about? The freedom to marry whom we please? The freedom to control our own bodies and decide when and if we reproduce? The freedom to NOT believe in someone else's dogma? All I hear from Mr. Frothy is how he wants to take away freedoms. America is not (and never will be) a theocracy, or a plutocracy. Obama 2012, the only sane choice.

    March 19, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  3. once upon a horse

    wow GREAT candidates you got there GOP! Santorum doesn't care about unemployment numbers and Romney doesn't care about the poor! And Newt lives in $2.50 a gallon gas fantasy-land. I think if Obama looked like the other 43 POTUS he would win this election like Reagan did in a landslide.

    March 19, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  4. Drake

    This is why people don't like politicians:

    They mis-state their opponents words and complain when their own words are mis-stated.

    March 19, 2012 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  5. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    And Romney doesn't care about the poor or the middle class at all.

    March 19, 2012 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  6. Romney is not My Hero

    So, Mutt Rob-Me is saying something about Sanctimonious again. Isn't he the one that said he doesn't care about poor people? Isn't this along the same line?

    What if he said: I don't care about poor people or the unemployment rate. Plus Corporations are people, and my dog is luggage. - How about that, Robot? Is that good enough for you?

    OBAMA 2012!

    March 19, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  7. Linda

    Mitt Romney cares about the American people. He cares about the unemployment rate. That why he's running for President. Please! Romney will say anything, ANYTHING to get elected.

    March 19, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  8. Randy, San Francisco

    Santorum is more concerned with what goes on behind closed bedroom doors than unemployed Americans.

    March 19, 2012 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  9. Iamnotfooled

    Santorum might not care about the unemployed. The unemployed will return the favor to him come November.

    March 19, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  10. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    KInd of like Willard's comment about liking to be able to fire people. Hey Rick, you opened THAT can of worms a couple of months back. How does it taste now?

    This is what happens now that we live in the age of the sound bite. Instead of taking the entire speech (and I ain't no Santorum fan) and rebutting it, Willard's folks found the one sentence that makes Rick seem like an uncaring (insert euphamism for illigitimate son) who only cares about his own campaign. Of course, given Rick's other statements over the past two years, this was about the most innocuous line he has come out with yet.

    March 19, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  11. Another Day in the Idiot Mines

    Every time Rmoney lies about using his "experience" as a vampire capitalist to "create jobs" another angel loses its wings.

    March 19, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  12. Anantha

    Gidley might be a showcase of why Americans perform poor in math and science. People at that level say that they do not care about math. Is not that what got Bush to win

    March 19, 2012 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  13. Lee

    Sounds like Rick is looking to pick up support from Ron Paul's crowd with his talk of how this election is about freedom, not economics. Good luck with that idea Rick.

    March 19, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  14. Amazing

    Since his campaign is all about freedom and healthcare, does this mean Mr. Santorum will no longer attack the President over the unemployment rate? Somehow I doubt it! What a hypocrite.

    March 19, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  15. enuff

    True colors are coming out. Romney doesn't care about the poor, Santorum doesn't care about the unemployed. As far as restoring freedom, does that include all that the Patriot Act took away? Or does it just pertain to taking away even more, such a birth control?

    March 20, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  16. Reynald

    says the guy who said he didn't care about the poor

    March 20, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  17. Mike

    Santorum has jumped the shark!!!

    March 20, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  18. CaliRepub

    I'm sorry... this "speaking from the heart" sounds a lot more like "pulling it out of my ass"...

    I'm pretty sure he contradicted himself about three times before I had to turn it off... I have to be honest, I lived in Mass during Romney's tenure. I think he did great, and more surprisingly, what he sad he would do. I'll take actions over "impassioned" speech thank you. Third vote for Mitt!

    March 20, 2012 03:10 am at 3:10 am |
  19. Marry

    Can’t there be one day where the GOP “candidates” do not spread nonsense ore mislead the people?
    Even worse and shameful, people listening to that and then not distance themselves from these propaganda clowns and think and educate themselves to come to their own conclusions!

    March 20, 2012 06:42 am at 6:42 am |
  20. JackVStevens

    I know how he feels if I lose my job my insurance is gone too. But people should know about "Penny Health" and also if you dont have means of paying for treatment the hospital will file the form and get reimbursed by medicaid.

    March 20, 2012 08:04 am at 8:04 am |
  21. honeybe

    His idea of freedom is for all citizens to think and act according to his beliefs.

    March 20, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  22. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    There's something more foundational that's going on here," Santorum said
    ------------------------------------------------
    Only "foundational" thing that I can see Pope Santorum going after is the entrechment of a Church state thereby abolishing our democracy.
    Santorum is linking hands with crazy Paul on his jaunt to the mythical land of Oz.

    March 20, 2012 08:49 am at 8:49 am |