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Romney: Rick Santorum is ‘at the desperate end of his campaign’

at 06:29 PM ET, 03/13/2012

Asked on CNN about an ad being run against him by a pro-Santorum super PAC, Mitt Romney came out swinging against the former senator from Pennsylvania.

Full transcript

“Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign and is trying in some way to boost his prospects,” Romney, who is in Liberty, Mo., told host Wolf Blitzer. “And frankly, misrepresenting the truth is not a good way of doing that.”

“Why do you think he’s at a desperate end of his campaign?” Blitzer asked.

“Well, I mean he’s far behind in the delegate count,” Romney responded. “He’s far behind in the popular vote count. If you look at the math of how many delegates he’d have to win to become the nominee, it’s a very difficult road for him. And so, at this stage, he’s looking for some way to try and gain ground. I understand that. But I would hope you’d use truth as one of the pillars of your strategy as opposed to trying to come up with one attack after the other that, frankly, has been determined by those who take a careful look from the outside to be inaccurate.”

It would appear to be the first time that Romney himself has used the word “desperate” to describe Santorum’s campaign – and it could be a sign that Romney’s camp is preparing a new strategy of discounting Santorum’s chances in the race entirely.

For his part, Santorum has used the word “desperate” frequently on the trail when talking about Romney. On Sunday, while campaigning in Cape Girardeau, Mo., heeven broke out a “very desperate” for the occasion.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., Presidential candidate, is interviewed on CNN “The Situation Room”

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: The first polls in tonight's Southern contests set to close just a little bit more than an hour from now. One person sure to be keeping a very close eye on the results, the Republican presidential frontrunner, the former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney.

He's joining us now.

Governor, thanks very much.

I know you have a limited amount of time.

Let's get right to Afghanistan, because the situation there seems to be going from bad to worse. Even Newt Gingrich said this. He says, "I think it's going to get substantially worse, not better, and I think that we are risking -- we are risking young men and women in a mission that may, frankly, not be doable."

Is it time to start getting out of Afghanistan much more quickly than President Obama has in mind, which is he wants everyone out by the end of 2014?

FORMER GOV. MITT ROMNEY, R,MA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it's certainly time, on a regular basis, to review our mission there and to see what progress we're making and not to make decisions based upon some did -- actions by a crazed gunman. We don't -- we don't determine our foreign policy based on something of that nature.

But of course, from time to time, we have to assess what the -- the process is there. I -- I'm very disappointed that the president has not, over the last year or two, talked about what's happening in Afghanistan, what progress is being made, what setbacks there are, describing a timetable that makes sense or describing why his timetable makes sense or not, as the case may be.

My own view is we have to listen to the commanders on the ground, hear what they have to say. We're going to hear input from General Allen in just a few days. Let's hear -- let's hear their reports and -- and see what pros -- prospects we have for having a successful mission of turning over, as soon as possible, the responsibility for the security of Afghan -- Afghanistan -- to the security troops there.

BLITZER: So do you agree or disagree with Gingrich that the mission may not be, in his words, doable?

ROMNEY: Well, yes, there's no certainty in a matter of foreign policy of this nature, of course. And -- and one recognizes that as one goes into a -- a conflict. But one, over time, collects information to see what progress is occurring, what setbacks are occurring.

But -- but you don't make an abrupt shift in policy because of the actions of one crazed, deranged person.

But -- but of course, you -- you assess your prospects over time, again, given the input of the people closest to the -- to the action.

But at -- at this stage, to say we're going to throw in the towel without getting the input of General Allen or actually making trips to Afghanistan and meeting with leaders there and meeting with our -- our commanders there and troops there, that wouldn't make a lot of sense.

I'm -- I'm more deliberate when it comes to the lives of our sons and daughters and the mission of the United States of America.

BLITZER: The super PAC that supports Rick Santorum has come out with a very tough commercial, a very tough attack ad against you.

I want to play a little clip and then we'll get your response.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM CAMPAIGN AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mitt created RomneyCare, the blueprint for ObamaCare. And just like Obama, Romney left Massachusetts $1 billion in debt.

Who can win?

Rick Santorum.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, I'm going to give you a chance to respond to Rick Santorum's super PAC.

ROMNEY: Well, you know, it's been interesting that -- that FactCheck has looked at Rick Santorum's claims over the last several ads and the things he said. And -- and I think in almost every case, they've said that Rick Santorum's attacks have been baseless and wrong. They -- I think they have something called Pinocchios. They gave him four Pinocchios or something like that.

I'm not going to get into discussing various ads. But obviously, we -- we left Massachusetts with over a $2 billion rainy day fund and a balanced budget. So I'm afraid his conclusions are exactly wrong.

But, you know, Senator Santorum is at the desperate end of his campaign and is trying, in some way, to boost his prospects and -- and, frankly, misrepresenting the truth is not -- not a good way of doing that.

BLITZER: Why do you think he's at the -- a desp -- a desperate end of his campaign?

ROMNEY: Well, I mean he's far behind in the delegate count. He's far behind in the popular vote count. If you look at the math of how many delegates he'd have to win to become the nominee, it's a -- it's a very difficult road for him.

And -- and so at this stage, he's -- he's looking for some way to try and gain ground. I understand that.

But I -- I would hope that you'd -- you'd use truth as one of the pillars of your strategy as opposed to trying to come up with a -- with one attack after the other that -- that, frankly, has been determined, by those who take a careful look from the outside, to be inaccurate. BLITZER: One of the criticisms you've leveled against Senator Santorum, when he was a sitting U.S. senator, was he repeatedly voted to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

Here's the question to you.

If you're elected president of the United States, will you make a commitment not to raise the nation's debt ceiling anymore?

ROMNEY: Well, I made it very clear when this last question came up about raising the debt ceiling that I would not have raised that debt ceiling without getting a -- a -- an agreement to cut, cap and balance the budget. And I continue to believe that that's the right course. And if I'm president, I will cut, cap and get America on track to have a balanced budget.

That's what we have to do. And if we don't do those things, we -- we should say, look, we're not going to raise the debt ceiling. We're not going to keep on opening up our -- our children's future to politicians that want to spend away that future by borrowing from the Chinese and others.

So my view is very simple and straightforward. My -- my plan is to get America on track for a balanced budget by cutting and capping federal spending.

BLITZER: So is -- can I understand that to mean that's a commitment that no more increases in the nation's debt ceiling if you're president?

ROMNEY: Any increases in the debt ceiling are going to have to be accompanied by compensating cuts in federal spending and making sure that we get ourselves on track to having a balanced budget.

BLITZER: Governor, thanks very much.

I know we've got a limited amount of time.

Appreciate your spending a few moments with us.

Appreciate it very much.

ROMNEY: Thanks, Wolf.

Good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

 
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