Posted at 04:56 PM ET, 01/02/2012

Santorum: Ron Paul belongs to ‘Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party’

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum (R) is swinging hard at Rep. Ron Paul as the Iowa caucuses loom, arguing that the Texas Republican’s views on foreign policy are more in line with liberal anti-war Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich than with the Republican Party.

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“Would you be able to campaign and embrace Ron Paul as the Republican nominee, given his positions on foreign policy and disengagement?” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Santorum in an interview at the Indianola, Iowa, Public Library that aired Monday night.

“That’s sort of the favorite question these days,” Santorum said. “And I’ve certainly been tough on Ron, on his foreign policy.”

“Is he qualified to be commander-in-chief?” Mitchell asked.

“Just on the issue of commander-in-chief, he comes from the Dennis Kucinich wing of the Democratic Party, which is not a place where I’d want my commander-in-chief to be,” Santorum responded. “The problem is Barack Obama in his second term, I fear, would not be much better.”

The move is the latest blow by a member of the GOP presidential field to Paul’s foreign-policy credentials. The libertarian-leaning Republican has a non-interventionist foreign policy stance that several of the other GOP contenders eyeing a win on Tuesday have criticized in a move to blunt Paul’s momentum. Establishment conservatives in the Iowa caucus electorate have also expressed increasing concern with Paul’s foreign policy views.

Paul, who had taken off to Texas for the New Year’s weekend, returned to the campaign trail Monday with his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

In his interview with Mitchell, Santorum also took some shots at former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R).

Asked whether he thought the barrage of attack ads against Gingrich has been unfair, Santorum declined to answer directly and noted a private exchange the two had onstage after a recent debate.

“Unfair?” Santorum asked. “I mean, I don’t know. I was with Newt the other day at the debate. And we came and talked right afterwards, just met on the stage. And he said, ‘What’d you think?’ I said, ‘Well, I would’ve appreciated a few questions.’ And he said, ‘Well, count your blessings you’re not getting them.’ When you’re in the center, that’s what you get.”

He did, however, directly make note of Gingrich’s ethical troubles during his tenure as speaker and argued that his past could prove problematic to Iowa caucus-goers.

“Obviously, Newt, when he was speaker, had some issues,” Santorum said. “He had some issues with respect to his conservative governance. As you know, there was an attempt to try to move him out, and then of course he had some of these ethical concerns. So I think a lot of folks are concerned about the new Newt, and whether he’s going to be different, in a sense, than the new Newt.”

Santorum was also asked to make his case against Romney, who polls show is in a dead heat for first place with Paul.

The former Pennsylvania senator — who left Congress in 2007 after an 18-point defeat in his bid for a third term — said that the former Massachusetts governor has “never run in a general election as a conservative.”

“I have four or five times, and I’ve won four,” he said.

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By  |  04:56 PM ET, 01/02/2012

 
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