Stumping in Pennsylvania, Santorum brings up Puerto Rico statehood
March 24th, 2012
11:15 AM ET
3 years ago

Stumping in Pennsylvania, Santorum brings up Puerto Rico statehood

(CNN) – Puerto Rico's Republican primary was nearly a week ago, but Rick Santorum was still talking about statehood for the territory at a campaign event on Saturday.

At a gathering of conservatives in Camp Hill, Pa., on Saturday, he explained a question he received from a Puerto Rico newspaper when he visited the state earlier this month.

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"I was asked the question, do you believe in statehood?" Santorum said. "I said sure, I have no problem with it. They said, what about the condition of having to speak the English language, because only 15% of Puerto Ricans speak English? And I said, well, of course they'd have to speak the English language."

Santorum told the Spanish-language newspaper Vocero in mid March that "to be a state of the United States, English must be the principal language" of the territory.

Those remarks sparked backlash, including a rebuke from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who said at a campaign stop in the territory, “I don't have preconditions that I would impose" should Puerto Ricans vote for statehood. The territory is set for a referendum on the issue in November.

But Santorum's point for Pennsylvania voters wasn't about statehood prospects for an island some 1,600 miles away. He used the incident to paint himself as principled, and Romney as inconsistent, or at worst, pandering.

"We don't as conservatives want a candidate that we can't trust to say the same thing before two different groups," Santorum said on Saturday.

Romney “has the same position I do, English should be the official language of the country,” Santorum said, but played the issue politically.

“I got blasted,” he continued. Romney “goes down to Puerto Rico, he gets asked the same question, he says, oh no, I would accept Puerto Rico as they are. No they don't have to speak English.”

Santorum could have been contrasting Romney's comments in Puerto Rico to those he made at a CNN debate in Jacksonville, Fla., in January: "I believe English should be the official language of the United States, as it is. I also believe that in our schools, we should teach kids in English."

In his Pennsylvania speech, Santorum raised and shook an Etch A Sketch, drawing a connection between the Puerto Rico episode and a dominant image from the campaign this week, when a senior adviser to Romney told CNN, that the transition from the primary to general election season is "like Etch A Sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again."

Romney clarified his adviser's comments when he took a single question at a press conference, explaining, "Organizationally, a general election campaign takes on a different profile. The issues I am running on will be exactly the same."

But Santorum has characterized the comment differently.

"We're looking for someone who has the courage of their convictions, who's not going to hit the reset button, pull out the Etch A Sketch – and try to remake themselves," he said in Shreveport, La., on Friday.

A spokesperson for Romney on Saturday questioned Santorum's "principled" pitch, saying "he has spent days walking back each of the stances he's harping about."

"No amount of distortions, false attacks or blatant fabrications can save Rick Santorum's desperate candidacy," Andrea Saul told CNN.

Santorum represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. House and Senate, but asked voters at the Saturday event not to support him as “a favorite son” but because he was the best leader for the country.

Romney won 83% of the vote and all 20 delegates in Puerto Rico, and as Santorum spoke on Saturday, polls were open in Louisiana to decide another 20 delegates. Pennsylvania’s vote is not for another month - on April 24 - and Santorum is to campaign later on Saturday in Wisconsin, which votes April 3.

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GOP focuses on health care law repeal in weekly address

Palin, Axelrod weigh in on health care

Santorum: Would vote for Obama 'over my dead body'


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Pennsylvania • Puerto Rico • Rick Santorum
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Marlee

    Republicans AND Democrats waving around toys made in China oblivious to the fact that most favoured nation and "free" trade are killing US.

    March 24, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  2. Name: DParke

    Wake up America. Romney IS our future. Santorum is a nice enough guy but Obama will eat him like a snack!. Like it or not Romney is the only one seasoned and polished enough to beat Obama. As republicans it's time to rally and get started beating on Obama not each other. Romney will swing moderates to us and if we, as strong conservatives, unite behind him Romney WILL beat Obama. Time for wishing and dreaming is over. It's time to rally and prepare for the real battle. Swallow your stubborn ideology pride and rally around the only Conservative who can actually beat Obama. He has a public record that people can pick apart, bit he has no skeletons in the closet. He is a Mormon for crying out loud! With off the chart family values. He is by FAR the best we got. Let's rally around him, unite and heal our wounds and start the Obama fight.  Vote for Mitt already and let's get this behind us!

    March 24, 2012 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  3. T'sah From Virginia

    Santorum is irrelevant!
    Paul is irrelevant!
    ginGRINCH is irrelevant!
    And in November, Romney will be irrelevant!!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    March 24, 2012 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  4. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Check out republican state representative Don Pridemore's anti woman legislation in Wisconsin.

    March 24, 2012 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  5. diridi

    These Republican idiots are just playing with public. To grab nomination, and your votes, they say on Statehood to islands....nasty thugs, no ethics, no morality, no standards. Just power. Vote all the Republican idiots from Congress, Senate, etc, in November election. period. Nation is on right track now with current one.

    March 24, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  6. Scef

    As a die hard dem and BHO supporter, I have to say that I agree with Santorum on these issues. Romney does pander to the audience and if PR is going to be a state english along with their native spanish will need to be the official language. English is the language that we conduct our official business in so it needs to be spoken, for the masses benefit, they can understand for themselves and be informed so as to make their own decisions and not have a select few tell them what to think like the GOP. We need to respect the fact that in their every day lives they will speak spanish, it's their culture, like the asians, russians, and all others when they first became Americans.

    March 24, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  7. firefarmer

    At this point I don't see Santorum as a politician. He seems to be a conservative ethicist and a finger pointer. I admit I haven't done much searching but he never seems to have any plans of his own he just puts down Romney and Obama. I can criticize politicians too but you don't see me begging to be the next president.

    March 24, 2012 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  8. norep

    Another republican clown is out.

    March 24, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  9. livingston

    Santorum paints himself as 'principled' does he? Well I can tell you that as a resident and voter from Pennsylvania, that we are all to aware of how 'principled' he is. That's why the last time he ran he lost by the largest margin in recent history! It may have taken us a while but we do learn from our mistakes. He will have one set of rules for you then another for himself and his friends. Why would anyone consider voting for someone who's own state, that knows him the best, has kicked to the curb?

    March 24, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  10. vic , nashville ,tn

    What ever happen Romney is GOP nominee,
    Santorum won Tennessee but here establishment raising fund for Romney campaign that mean race is over

    March 24, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  11. sensible

    Yes,Sanitorium does not change his stance. He is ALWAYS on the wrong side! You can depend on that!

    March 24, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  12. Larry L

    Santorum's comment in Puerto Rico was calculated. He knew wouldn't win the delegates there but took the opportunity to show the right-wing crazies across the country how "conservative" he is. Conservatism has come to mean "fearful of all diversity, angry at all minorities, anti-science, totally under the control of Teavangelical radicals".

    March 24, 2012 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  13. flmaysr

    Why was it necessary for a gun to be drawn. What did the young man do that would threaten a men much bigger then he. Why did Zemmerman disreguard the police order to back off. From the pictures I have seen Zimmerman was much bigger then the victim. Just another hot head who could not control himself.

    March 24, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Jose Canyusi

    In 2006, this snot lost his re-election campaign by 18%....the largest margin of loss by any republican in the history of Pennsylvania state politics. Can't wait to see him get clobbered in his home state again.

    March 24, 2012 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  15. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Santorum is very good at telling other people how to live or what it takes for a position on anything. It is not up to him whether a U.S. protectorate becomes a state ! It is not up to him as to how a woman deals with the private areas of her life!!!
    This man seems to set himself up as an expert on anything and everything with minimal knowledge of all. He's a loser!!!!!!

    March 24, 2012 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  16. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    English, abortion, immigration, healthcare, taxes, you name it and still there's nothing about jobs coming out of the mouths of these Republicans. It's about repealing this and repealing that but no solutions.

    March 24, 2012 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  17. blairablair

    Sanatorium "We're looking for someone who has the courage of their convictions, who's not going to hit the reset button, pull out the Etch A Sketch – and try to remake themselves," he said in Shreveport, La., on Friday. Seems to me Santorum is the one puling out the Etch A Sketch when he gives a (speech) then shakes it . So who is tiring to remake themselves. Shaking an Etch A Sketch is not going to take away what Sanatorium has said and done.

    March 24, 2012 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. steven harnack

    Santorum is too unaware to know that he is still flogging an issue that lost him 20 delegate a week ago and any Hispanics that may have thought about supporting him. He's as bad as Romney for sabotaging every step he makes. Good, it gives me hope for the general election. We need Obama now more than ever.

    March 24, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Thomas

    Why not make Haiti a state too ?

    Rick needs to stay on message , outlaw contraception.

    March 24, 2012 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  20. Sorensen

    What's the nut-case bible-banger doing in Pensylvania? They threw him out last time. His wife, however, thinks he is a
    genius!!!

    March 24, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. Marla

    Santorum is pandering, too. He's pandering to his base – the so-called "patriots" on the right who aren't intelligent enough to learn a second language and see no need to travel outside of their own state, let alone to another country to learn about another culture. I hope that all of the Latino voters are watching this circus act and vote accordingly.
    VOTE DEMOCRAT 2012!

    March 24, 2012 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  22. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Wow. What was Ricko more upset about? That Mitt said Puerto Rico, which actually has closer to 85% of the territory that speaks English (which is more than Pennsylvania can say) doesn't have an English Language litmus test for statehood or that schools should teach English? Because we all know that Rick Santorum doesn't believe in schools – but where did those degrees come from? Did he home study for them? If that is the case then I have a PhD in medieval plumbing and English Ivy removal.

    March 24, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |