Politics

Santorum Talks 2016, Jobs, Immigration And Wall Street

Neil Munro White House Correspondent

The Daily Caller sat down for an interview with Sen. Rick Santorum, the man who ran close behind Gov. Mitt Romney in the GOP’s 2012 nomination.

Santorum is preparing for another run, and he’s practicing his pitch to middle-income voters, diplomatically calling for a “pause” in the flow of immigrant workers, keeping his distance from the GOP’s financial backers on Wall Street, and running a movie studio, EchoLight Studios.

 Q. Can a focus on labor, wages and jobs help you win in 2016?

It’s the only ticket for us to be successful in 2016. If conservatives and Republicans don’t begin to reach working Americans, across the board — black, brown, white — and have a message of hope, opportunity, the ability for them to be able to rise in society, provide for their families, and create opportunities for themselves, then I think the numbers are just solidly against us.

We need a transformation of the party to reflect where the party is. This is really the interesting part here — if you look at who votes for us these days, it is less and less the corporate world, it is less and less the suburban wealthy voters and its more and more average America — working Americans in the middle of the economic sphere, and they want to vote for us in even bigger numbers.

I would even go into not just from the middle, but broadening out on other sides of the middle, including lower middle-income Americans. They want to vote for us because they have now seen the devastation of government intrusion and involvement in their lives. They’ve seen the devastation of government mandates in harming their ability to get good wages and good benefits and being able to provide for their families. They don’t want to be on food stamps. They don’t want to be on housing assistance.

They don’t see Republicans and conservatives as giving a damn about them. We don’t talk about them, our policies aren’t oriented to them. It’s all “You didn’t build that,” it’s all focused on the small business guy, it’s focused on the entrepreneur, its focused on the business person and what we have to do to create jobs.

All of that is important — I’m pro-growth as anyone else in the Republican Party — but I’m also pro-worker and we need to have an agenda and it starts with issues like immigration, it starts with issues like manufacturing, construction, and vocational and technical training. It starts with with actually having programs that put people to work and provide an opportunity for them to rise in society.

Q. Are there any other GOP candidates who will address this issue of labor supply, wages, jobs and immigration?

I don’t see a whole lot of it, to be honest. That’s one of the grave concerns I have about the future of our party. I don’t think people have gotten this message.

What people don’t recall from the 2012 election is that when I ran for president in 2012, this was one of the major points of emphasis of our campaign. We went out and talked about a manufacturing agenda, we went out and talked about the importance of vocational and technical training. We talked about the importance of making sure families were strong because if you look at all the survey data, the number one factor for Middle America to be falling is family structure. So we made it a point to go out and talk about the family as a little small business. We made it a point to talk about the importance of providing good jobs in energy, and manufacturing and construction.

If you look at who voted for Rick Santorum during those primaries, it was overwhelming those voters…If you look at the map of most of the states that we ran in, we’d lose the suburban areas around the city, we’d occasionally win the city or come close, but all the other areas of the state we would win, where you know, lower wage, hard-working average Americans were out there.

They responded to that message, and so I’m very comfortable that if you look at the demographics going into the 2016 election, look at where the opportunities are for Republicans to be successful, I would make the argument that it is right across that belt of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin. Those are states where we still have a tremendous opportunity if we can identify with working Americans, and have a set of policies and programs that connect with them, that we can not just get our 270 electoral votes, but do what Reagan did, which is to transform the electorate into a party that is in a strong position getting into elections, getting 300 plus electoral votes.

 Q. Do GOP leaders need to find a way to symbolically break with Wall Street?

Last time around, when I was going up against Gov. Romney, I was a candidate against the Wall Street bailout, I was a candidate against the car bailouts. We ran very much as a break from Wall Street.

I was out there talking about how we have to cut the cost of labor in America in the tax code, not so much the cost of capital. We already favor capital in the tax code more than we do labor and we need to bring labor more in line and to lower rates for workers commensurate with what the tax rate is for capital. We didn’t get a lot of praise from Wall Street for doing such things.

Again, people say “You were just the last guy standing last time, the only reason you were able to do well against Romney is that you were the last guy standing.” Well, why was I still standing?… What made me stand that everyone else fell? What do you think made me stand? But that question never quite permeates the mind of the questioner, particularly here in Washington, D.C.

I was standing on something that allowed me to win 11 states, tie two states in delegates out of the 30 states I competed in when I was being outspent four, five, six to one. This message must have some resonance.

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