Presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Friday defended himself from accusations that he failed to condemn moderator John King for raising allegations from rival Newt Gingrich’s ex-wife at the start of Thursday’s South Carolina debate.
And Santorum told Newsmax exclusively that he still believes Marianne Gingrich’s claim that the former House speaker asked her to agree to an open marriage is a “legitimate issue” to raise.
“To me, the issue is, look at facts and circumstances and make your determination,” Santorum said. He said all voters should “go through that process and look at all of the issues surrounding them.”
But he added, “Having said that, as I said last night, I believe in forgiveness, and I believe what Newt says about the situation, I’ve no reason not to believe.”
Santorum was speaking on the eve of the South Carolina primary in which he is expected to battle Texas Rep. Ron Paul for third place behind Gingrich and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Neither Paul nor Romney sought to make capital out of Gingrich’s woes on Thursday night.
“We are hoping to have a strong finish and surprise people from where those polls have us right now,” he said. But whatever the result, he insisted there will still be four candidates when voters go to the polls in Florida on January 31 for the fourth contest of the primary season.
Santorum won the first contest, the Iowa caucuses, even though he was initially said to have been defeated by Romney by a mere eight votes. A recount showed he had won by 38, although state officials are calling it “a virtual tie,” because some precincts have not properly reported.
He bemoaned the situation in the Hawkeye State. “If we had known that two weeks ago it would have been a good bump,” he said.
But he said the result proves that it is not inevitable that Romney will win South Carolina as he cannot now go in saying he won the first two contests.
“Whatever happens in South Carolina is not going to be determinative. This primary election is going to go on,” said the former Pennsylvania senator.
Santorum said he was not running against either Romney or Gingrich, but instead “running for me.”
“I try to differentiate myself… from all the three candidates during the race, and most importantly differentiate myself from Barack Obama on why I am the best person to win. When I talk about the other candidates, I do so in the context of why I believe that we are in a better position to win this race and get things done in Washington D.C.
He said Republican voters want to know two things about the candidates: “Can you win in the fall and can you govern in a way that you will do what’s necessary to turn this country around.”
When asked about his comment that Romney and Gingrich are like the Lewis Carroll characters Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Santorum said they were both compromised on the big four issues that resonate with tea party voters, healthcare, global warming, bailouts and immigration.
“They have been for big government healthcare, both of them. If you look as recently as last year, Newt was for an individual mandate.
“On top of that you look at the Wall Street bailouts, they both endorsed them. They both say they wish they hadn’t done it, but they both said at the time and they both advocated a vote for the Wall Street bailout. I didn’t because I don’t believe in top-down solutions to the problems that confront us.
“On global warming, Mitt Romney has repeatedly said – he said it up in New Hampshire – that he believes in global warming and he believes that man contributes to it. He has never come out and said he is for Cap and Trade, but when you say there is a problem and man is doing it, you sort of limit your options as to what you can do.
“Gingrich, of course, sat on a couch with Nancy Pelosi, both buying into the hoax and to the hype of the left.”
But he said his position is clear. “I just reject this junk science out of hand as a ploy by the left to get government to take over more aspects of the American economy.
“I’m not so easily lured as some of these folks when it comes to some of these issues du jour that the left floats out there.”
But Santorum stepped back from a comment he had made to CNN after Thursday’s debate that left viewers with the impression that he believes Gingrich is unstable.
“Unstable is an unfair characterization – that gives the impression that I think that he is somehow mentally unstable, that’s not at all the case. Newt’s a brilliant guy,” Santorum said.
“The question is his propensity to jump on different sides of the issues and come out with a plethora of ideas, some of which are really very cool and very neat, others of which are not so cool and not so neat and involve a significant amount of government.
“Newt is a great guy, but he is not the guy, and we saw this during his time when he was speaker of the House, to execute the game plan and to be the disciplined visionary to get things accomplished.
“That’s really the difference between having someone who is a brilliant generator of ideas and, you might even say, someone who has the authority to put grand schemes together as opposed to someone who has the courage and conviction and the discipline to be able to be president and to govern the country in a way that is necessary for a chief executive.”
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