Rick Santorum On The 2012 Caucuses, The Crowded GOP Field, And Guns

Jan 19, 2016

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum was the surprise winner of the 2012 Iowa Republican caucuses after a recount showed a 42 vote swing in his favor. Two weeks earlier, Mitt Romney had been declared the winner by just 8 votes.

Santorum’s back on the campaign trail in 2016 but not faring nearly as well as he did four years ago.  IPR’s Pat Blank recently spoke with him prior to a town hall meeting in Waterloo.

Pat Blank: Joining me today is former Pennsylvania Senator and 2016 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, Welcome.

Rick Santorum: Thank you Pat, good to be with you.

PB:  Let’s talk a little bit about the 2012 caucuses. Where you were then and where are you now?

RS: We were pretty much at the same place. We were trying, ah, having tried everything and done everything that we possibly could, trying to break out, we hadn’t and it was very frustrating. Our prayer was that maybe a week out we could get to ten and then if we got to ten we could get some, get some momentum coming down the stretch and that’s exactly what happened. About nine days out, we had a poll that at the first time had us in double digits. We took that and built momentum and that’s exactly what happened.

PB: And it took a couple of weeks to make that final decision to show that you had won the Iowa caucuses and there discussions at that time that the whole caucus system was flawed and the caucuses maybe weren’t such a good idea. How do you feel about that?

RS: You know, I think that’s not accurate. That fact of the matter is they made a mistake. The biggest mistake they made was they announced a winner too soon. No one announces a winner when there’s a hundred and twenty or a hundred and thirty thousand votes cast, the differential was eight.   Ah, you can’t announce a winner until you have a certification process which they had, so it was really the state chairman that brought great discredit to the Iowa caucuses. They just made a bad call, unfortunately for purely partisan reasons and I think the Iowa caucuses got a black eye because of it. But let’s go back, in the end I ended up winning by 34, so a 42 vote swing out of a system of more than a hundred twenty thousand votes cast is not a system that’s broken.  I’m not down at all on the Iowa caucuses, what I would say is that they’re taking measures this time to make sure the vote is even more accurate originally and I think they’re going to be even more cautious about announcing winners and losers until the vote’s been certified, if it’s close, if it’s not close then it’s obvious you don’t have to worry about it.

PB: There’s still a very crowded GOP field. In fact sometimes when some people’s names are mentioned, like Rick Santorum, people say who’s that? How do you still distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack at this point?

RS: It’s been a very frustrating part of this election. Four years ago, even though we were at the back of the pack we were still on the national stage. When people watched the debates they saw me. This election, because the media and the RNC (Republican National Committee) have decided to segregate the field, it’s been harder for those at the back of the pack to make that rush and I do run into this problem this time around and I think we’d be doing better if people saw us. So I’m setting my expectations a little different this time. I think in this race, a showing here doesn’t have to be a first or a second. I think it could be one that shows real organizational and grassroots strength and vote for someone who’s not been given a whole lot of air time and not been given a whole lot of attention in the race.

PB : President Obama recently issued an executive order concerning gun legislation and at the same time, a five year law concerning right to carry permits expired in Iowa.  Applications for permits to carry in this state skyrocketed by as much as 400 percent because in part of those two things.  What are your feelings on the gun legislation and what you hearing in town meetings like the one today?

RS :  I’ve heard more about guns, just came from Gladbrook and got a question on Second Amendment rights. Four years ago, I rarely got questions about guns. I get them all the time now.  People are very concerned, first off, they don’t feel safe. They feel like a there’s a president that’s not going to keep us safe, who’s not focused on the root cause of these mass shootings.  It’s ISIS and stopping the proliferation of terrorists or whether it’s just the foundation of the root cause of crime in America, which nobody that I run into believes is guns. The root cause is the people who use the guns not the guns themselves. That’s the focal point here, what are we going to do to make sure we have the ability to protect ourselves? When you see shootings that happen in cities not much bigger than the towns here in Iowa it’s a serious issue and people want to make sure they have the ability to protect themselves, that’s why the Second Amendment is so important.

PB: We always like to ask the presidential candidates for one or two words that come to mind when they think of Iowa. What are those words for you?

RS: When I think of Iowa I think of small towns, town squares and hardworking people who have the values that have made our country great. And that’s why I think Iowa should continue to be the place that they get the first crack at the presidential process.