In an exclusive Newsmax interview, former Pennsylvania Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum accuses Rick Perry of being soft on illegal immigration and launches a three-pronged attack on the Texas governor’s policies on undocumented aliens.
He also disagrees with those who say the GOP candidates shouldn’t be so outspoken in criticizing one another, saying it’s important to find out now who will be able to take the pressure of a hard-fought general election campaign.
Santorum was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994 and re-elected in 2000, but lost his re-election bid in 2006. He spoke with Newsmax.TV after participating in Thursday night’s GOP presidential debate in Orlando, Fla.
Recent polls show Perry and Mitt Romney the clear front-runners in the race for the GOP nomination, but Santorum believes he can close the gap.
“This is not a national horse race. This is a race in individual states, one at a time, and these national polls are just a snapshot of somebody’s popularity and name identification,” he says.
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“What’s going on in the early primary states is what really counts, and we feel very good about the reception we’re getting in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, now here in Florida.
“So what I have to do is what I’ve been doing, which is run a grassroots campaign for president, get out and meet with as many people as I can. We’re going to take advantage of the opportunities we have, like last night in the debate, to show the contrast between us and our ability to lead this country.”
Santorum was asked if he agrees that his presidential opponent Rick Perry is soft on illegal immigration. “I was asked that question last night and the answer I gave is very clear: Yes he is,” he responds.
“He has not done a good job in the three areas that I think are important.
“Number one, he talks about the border and yet his record on the border is not good. He has opposed the fence, which is proven to be the most successful way of making sure that people don’t come here illegally. He’s saying we don’t need to do that, we just need to deploy more people. That hasn’t worked. So he’s been soft on the border.
“He’s promoted programs which are unfortunately a magnet for some people to come to this country — giving tuition breaks to people illegally in Texas to go to their state schools. If you’re illegal and living in Texas, you’re going to get a $100,000 discount. To me that is someone who doesn’t understand that we should not be creating any kind of incentive for people to act illegally in coming into this country.
“And finally what he’s talking about with respect to enforcing the laws in this country, as far as finding people who have broken the law and deporting them. The Arizona law [regarding illegal immigrants], he said, was not for Texas. From my perspective, if the federal government isn’t going to do the job — and they certainly would if I was president — if I was a governor we’d have a responsibility to our citizens to protect them, and one area is to make sure that people who are in this country illegally should no longer stay in this country.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott maintains that a candidate must win Florida to win the election, but Santorum says that is a “general election issue” and right now he is concentrating on Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. “We’ll be in Florida too but that’s a little further down the line,” he adds.
Santorum takes issue with those who say the Republican presidential candidates should spend more energy attacking President Obama than one another.
“This is a primary process where you have to weed out who you think is the best person,” he declares.
“Trust me: Barack Obama is going to be a lot tougher on the Republican nominee than anyone on that stage last night. We have to find out who can take it, whether they can stand up to the criticism, whether they have the record that is a winning record.
“You better go through a tough process in a Republican primary or you’re not going to be ready for a tougher general election.”
Regarding the possibility of the Islamic Brotherhood taking control in Egypt following the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, Santorum says: “It’s not a potential danger, it seems to be an increasing reality that the Muslim Brotherhood is the most influential group of folks outside of the military in Egypt.
“And the question is how much control they will have over the government of that country and how the military will live with that.
“This Arab spring could very well turn into a winter of problems for us here in America.”
Asked what chance President Obama’s plan to increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans has of passing Congress, Santorum responds: “None. The problem isn’t not enough tax revenue, the problem is we spend too much.”
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