Santorum: Miracle man?

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    Carol Cain__Rick_SantorumIt’s a good thing Rick Santorum favors cowboy boots. He might want to add some six shooters to his arsenal as he prepares for a stepped up battle for his party’s presidential nomination with GOP contenders having him squarely in their sights.

    As the Republican beauty contest to find a person to take on Barack Obama in the November general election for president descends on Michigan with its  Feb. 28  primary, Santorum has been spending a lot of time in Metro Detroit.

    His surprise leap-frogging from third place to running neck and neck in some polls to first place against Mass. Governor and Michigan native son Mitt Romney is downright shocking to many.

    Many assumed Romney would walk away with his home state where his late father, George Romney, was once governor and also saved American Motors.

    Santorum, the former Senator from Pennsylvania, has come through the early season of this fascinating contest unscathed as Romney shouldered the brunt of attacks from former Speaker Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Gov. Rick Perry and other GOP contenders.

    Santorum knows the hot lights and attention will now come his way. It’s that same kind of attention that took down one time front-runners Rick Perry, Herman Cain and forced others out of the race.

    In drumming up support, Santorum has been hop-scotching Michigan as he visited the Detroit Economic Club, local chambers, Lincoln dinners and cities big and small.

    He stopped at the WWJ-TV CBS Detroit studio and appeared on “Michigan Matters” where I had a chance to talk with him about a variety of topics:

    Q:  Do you have any background in Michigan?

    A: Yes, my grandfather, Pietro Santorum, came here from Italy to work in Detroit’s auto plants in 1925. He was laid off two years later and had to return to Italy. He came back to this country and worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines until he was 72 years old.

    Q: How does that make you relate to people in Detroit?

    A: Being the grandson of a coal miner, growing up in a steel town in Pennsylvania, helped forge me as someone who understands the greatness of our country and the importance of the industrial heartland of America.

    Detroit helped build America and create wealth. I come from steel country. We feel that same pride about what we did to forge a great and powerful nation. And there’s no area of the country that can take more credit for that than you right here and therefore you hold a great degree of honor here. 

    Q: With your views against gay marriage, use of contraception, abortion in any case, many say you are too conservative to win a national election particularly when you will have to convince independents to vote for you. Your thoughts?

    A: Some are saying, ‘Rick Santorum is so conservative that he can’t win.’ Mitt Romney is telling people I am not conservative enough. Maybe the truth is:  I am just right. Someone who understands the role of government and understands things that are important like having a strong defense department.

    Q: What do you think you are suddenly tied with Gov. Romney (or even ahead in some polls)?

    A:  I think we have been delivering a pretty positive policy perspective. I haven’t been out there attacking anyone or beating up on anyone.

    During the debates, I just answered the questions and was on the sidelines as the others were involved in back and forth attacks.

    I am sure that helped people watching the debates who said, ‘here is a guy who is putting forth ideas and not into all the banter.’

    Q: With your new front-runner status you know that will change. How will you respond? (The next presidential debate is being held Wednesday Feb. 22 in Mesa, Arizona. That state also holds its primary on Feb. 28 as does Michigan).

    A: All I can do is lay out to people what America would look like and show them how good government can work. I’m ready for what comes.

    Q: Mitt Romney has taken a lot of heat for being against the government bailouts of the auto companies.  Where do you stand and if you agree with him, wouldn’t the impact on Detroit have been even more devastating?

    A:  I was against all the bailouts – not just autos, but Wall Street too.

     Yes, there might have been more disruption and GM and Chrysler might not look like they do now. There might have been a fracturing of the industry which might have been better in the long run.

    Q: With no capital in the markets, how would GM, Chrysler been able to restructure? Even President George W. Bush said at the recent National Auto Dealers Association meeting in Las Vegas he would have given the auto bailouts again.

    A: There were people who were holding back capital knowing the government was going to provide it. There would have been money.

    Q: Speaking of money, some question if you have the money and organization to bankroll a national campaign into the November election. Do you?

    A: We raised $2 million all together until Iowa (Jan. 3). Then we raised $4.5 million in January and in the first two weeks of February we raised $5 million. I am not worried. We don’t have the super PACs that Romney has. But we are picking up momentum.

    Q: Given you are among the front-runners, have you thought about a potential vice president candidate. Would you consider Mitt Romney?

     A: I would consider someone who shares my values and will do the job I told the American public I would do.

    Q: What about former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush?

    A: I will look at many people, but they need to share my values.

    Q:  How is your daughter, Bella (three years old) who suffers from Trisomy 18, a genetic disease, doing?

    A: Thank you for asking. I left the campaign trail to be home to make sure she was ok. She had pneumonia but came out of it thanks to the doctors and nurses who took such good care of her.

    Q: As a candidate running for office with a young family at home, it must be tough.

    A: I have seven children, ages 20 to 3.  My two oldest, 20 and 19, are traveling with me as they took the year off from college to do so.  This is not the best time to run but I feel so strongly that we are at a critical time in our country I had to do it.

    Q: Your wife, Karen, has been taking care of family. How would she juggle the dema
    nds of being First Lady and what would her focus be in that role if you were successful?

    A: Karen is going to try to get on the road more often with me.

    As First lady, her focus would be  on children with disabilities. Unless you live with the burden and gift of a special needs child it’s hard to understand. It is tough but it is also wonderful. You learn so much from them.

    Q: Your thoughts on Mitt Romney – the candidate?

    A: I like Mitt and all the candidates. He has some strengths, like his business experience.  But the job of president is more than being CEO.  It’s about managing change. It’s about motivating America and I don’t think Romney has shown an ability to connect and get the country motivated.

    I am not trying to manage; I am trying to change the country.

    (Carol Cain is an Emmy winning journalist who is senior producer and host of WWJ-TV CBS Detroit “Michigan Matters.” She writes about politics and business for Sunday’s Detroit Free Press.)

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