Rick Santorum in Des Moines–1/26/11

I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with former Senator and prospective 2012 Presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  He was in town for a series of events and he agreed to meet with me at Caribou Coffee in Des Moines.

He’s taking his time making a decision whether or not to run for President in 2012.  He said a decision would be before the Iowa Straw Poll, but that it is a big decision for family.  “I’m not going to let somebody else’s timing effect mine.”

Regarding his recent remarks relating abortion to civil rights he said:

I’m very comfortable with what I believe.  When this issue came up I’m sure there were some who said, “Oh no how are you going to manage this situation?” I never even contemplated that.  I said what I believe.  I always say what I believe.  Now sometimes I don’t always say it as articulately as I like.  And even the comment I made the other day it was an hour and forty minute interview, and so not it was not a scripted comment.  I could have said it more articulately, but what I said is what I believe and I’m very comfortable having that debate and I actually welcome the debate.  People say, “well you are being called all of these names.”  If it is drawing attention to the issue I care about I don’t really care what they call me, I know what I am.

He went on to say that he wants to have a discussion on abortion and race in America – that it is an important discussion for us to have (See his recent article at National Review on this subject).  He said that many people don’t have the worldview that undergirds their prolife position.

We discussed the recent debate among prolifers about Iowa House File 5 (whether we continue to try to ban certain types of abortion with the goal of banning outright, or just go for the personhood amendment).  He affirmed both sides in the debate saying  that both sides have a strategy “that is viable and should be respected,” Santorum encouraged civility among the different groups, “It’s a healthy debate, as long as we respect the honorable intent of both sides.”  To those who have questioned the principles of those who disagree with their strategy he warned for them to “cool that rhetoric.”  He went on to say, “It’s not helpful and it is disruptive.  We can disagree on strategy and tactics and still agree on vision and be good people trying to serve the Lord and serve our country.”

We also discussed what sets him apart in a potentially crowded field among Republicans in 2012.  He cited that he is comfortable in his own skin, he’s conservative and can communicate it in a compelling way.  He pointed to his “proven track record of defeating Democratic incumbents and getting the votes necessary in tough states to be able win.”

I asked what he learned from his loss in 2006.  He said somewhat in jest, “don’t run in really bad election years.”  He then went on to explain the context (which was awful for Republicans) of the election in Pennsylvania.

We also discussed President Barack Obama’s assessment that “the economy is growing again.” He said it’s “anemic,” and that we are no longer in a recession.  But that the economy isn’t “growing at a rate that will improve the quality of life in America and create jobs.”

Also discussed was what he would replace Obamacare with once it is repealed.  We talked about how is position on a Federal Marriage Amendment is consistent with a Federalist position.  We also talked about what role the federal government should have in education (if any).

Forty minutes later he was off having to catch an earlier flight back to the East coast due to inclement weather with a promise that he’ll be back in Iowa soon.

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