Politics

‘Masters Exemption’: Rick Santorum Wants To Be Grandfathered Into Debates

Alex Pappas Political Reporter

As reigning victor of the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum is arguing he should be guaranteed a spot on the Republican presidential debate stage regardless of his polling numbers.

“I call it the Masters exemption,” the former Pennsylvania senator said during an hour-long discussion with The Daily Caller on Monday.

After winning the Masters, professional golfers automatically receive a invitation to compete for the rest of their lives.

Santorum won 11 states during the 2012 contest, including Iowa’s first-in-the nation contest. But under the rules established by Fox News, it’s unclear whether he will be invited to the first debate Aug. 6.

The debate will be between the Republicans placing in the top 10 of national polls. As of Monday, Santorum is polling in 11th place nationally, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average.

Asked to describe his preferred method for determining debate participants, Santorum said: “I would prefer one percent of the polls in either Iowa and New Hampshire as a ground rule, because that’s more relevant.”

(If Santorum’s “Masters exemption” were implemented, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa and seven other states in 2008, would also automatically qualify for all debates).

Speaking to reporters and editors at TheDC’s newsroom Monday, Santorum discussed a wide-range of political issues and policies.

Asked about Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders recent popularity with Democratic Party voters, Santorum said: “It’s who the Democratic Party is. The Democratic Party is the hard left. Their funders are hard left. Their policies are hard left. And so it’s not surprising that an avowed socialist would do well within the Democratic Party.”

Santorum predicted that the recent Supreme Court decision striking down state laws banning gay marriage would have far-reaching religious liberty consequences.

“Roe didn’t require every doctor to do abortions,” he said. “But this decision really does compel others to get on board.”

Private businesses, Santorum predicted, will “clearly face some pushback from the government.”

“That’ll be first,” he said. “There will be lots of other examples out there with church-related organizations, colleges, schools, charitable outreach organizations. And it’ll get down to everything from how they practice their missions and who they serve and how they serve them to their hiring practices and their employment practices. All of those things.”

As for whether ministers could be forced to perform same-sex marriages, Santorum said: “I don’t think that’s likely in the short-term.”

But, Santorum warned, “in the long-term, if all of these other things bear out to be invalidated by the courts and the government, then clearly that’ll be next. If folks who are holding these points of views are treated as bigots and racists, eventually that is going to happen too.”

Asked what he thought about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s wife admitting to not exactly being against gay marriage, Santorum responded: “Spouses matter.”

“When your spouse is not in-sync with you — particularly on cultural issues, moral issues — [you] tend not to be as active on those issues,” he said.

Santorum reiterated his position that the eligibility age should be gradually raised in order to save entitlement programs, pointing out life expectancies have dramatically increased for seniors since Social Security was enacted.

“The Social Security system was not designed to support people who are going to live on it for 20 years and who are capable of continuing to work,” he said.

When it was pointed out that Huckabee, a Republican primary rival, has opposed raising the eligibility age, Santorum said: “Huckabee has taken the Hillary Clinton position on this. And that’s fine. But it’s not going to solve the problem.”

Santorum is calling for a 25 percent reduction of legal immigration, saying immigration policy should be seen “through the eyes of what’s in the best interest of America and American workers, and the people who are struggling the most in the country.”

“And when you look at just the facts, we’ve had 35 million people come into this country over the last 20 years who are both legal and illegal. The vast, vast majority of them are unskilled workers. And if you look at what’s happened to unskilled workers in America over the 20 years, not a very pretty picture,” he said.

During the interview, Santorum sought to contrast himself with some of the newer faces running for president by saying voters know where stands.

“Go ahead and point out where I’ve changed my opinion on anything in 20 years,” he said. “And I’ve not just had consistent opinions on these issues, but that I’ve led charges on everything from moral, cultural issues to economic issues to social welfare issues to national security issues. I’ve been out front on a lot of these issues.”

As for neophyte candidates like Ben Carson, Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina, Santorum said he understands “the fascination with some of these candidates who have no political background” but “how in the heck do you know what they’re going to do?”

“You can’t know,” he said. “You really can’t know, because they don’t know. Thats why I think we can’t be taking chances. This is too important a time to put someone in that you really in your heart of hearts don’t know how they’re going to react. You need someone you know you can trust.”

Santorum also took issue with the argument that Republicans should nominate a governor, saying they lack national security experience.

Citing former President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education law, Santorum also argued that being a governor turns some people into big government conservatives.

“We have governors coming here and turning the federal government into the state,” he said. “We just need someone who understands the proper role of the federal government, and lets the states do what they should be doing originally, as opposed to what the federal government is telling them to do.”

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