Rick Santorum: Mitt Romney is a big government heavyweight

Updated

This morning, in advance of Tuesday’s Illinois primary, 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum joined us from the state to update us on his campaign.

Over the weekend, Santorum’s competitor Mitt Romney picked up a win in the Puerto Rico GOP primary and took home the 20 delegates offered there. As of now, Romney has a total of 521 delegates and Santorum has 253. A candidate needs 1144 delegates to win the nomination.

According to a new PPP poll, Romney is up 15 points in Illinois, but on the show this morning, Santorum discussed why he’s still confident.

“We’ve won 10 states; we’ve been outspent badly in every one of those states. We’re out there with a very principled message about what this election is about,” Santorum said. “And we’ve got a positive vision for this country. We talk about creating manufacturing jobs and our plan to do so…”

Santorum also responded to Mitt Romney’s criticisms that he’s an economic lightweight.

“If I’m a lightweight, he is a big government heavyweight. That’s what his record was,” Santorum said.

While on set, talk also turned to Santorum’s position on contraception and the president’s HHS mandate.

Below is some of the exchange with Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Santorum:

Mika Brzezinski: Since you talk about connecting with average, ordinary Americans, some analysts including maybe some on this set might have said that you got a tad bit sidetracked on the issue of contraception in a way that doesn’t connect with not only members of your party but across the board. Just totally off message, off base in terms of what plagues this country right now. Were members of your team telling you to back off?

Santorum: As you know Mika, the issue wasn’t contraception, the issue was government-mandated health insurance, and that, to me is completely on message. The federal government shouldn’t be mandating any health insurance and specifically going after churches and saying they have to do things that are against the tenants and teachings of their faith. The left is very keen on talking about the separation of church and state when they mean the churches can’t participate and people of faith can’t participate in the public square…This president is rolling over people’s rights, and that is a big issue in this country.

Scarborough: I certainly agreed when we were talking about the Catholic Church controversy. I think we were probably on the same side there, but beyond just that I saw a video of an interview that you did in Iowa back in the fall where you said contraception was wrong and other presidential candidates didn’t talk about it, but you were going to talk about it. Do you regret saying that or was that just one of those things you said on a day..? Because I know you also have videos where you say you voted for Title 10. You laugh about it, but I could give you chapter and verse of that.

Santorum: You guys are playing gotcha politics. Look, I was talking about my own personal faith. And what I was saying was the issue of out-of-wedlock births and what’s going on with the destruction of the American family is something I will talk about, and I have talked about in this campaign. I wasn’t talking about access to contraception. That wasn’t the issue…I’m talking about the importance, the integrity of the family as an economic unit in this country. And as I’ve said many times, when you see children being born out of wedlock and you see the breakdown of the traditional family, guess what else you see? You see poverty rates go up, and you see government involvement in people’s lives go up.

Santorum: Come to any of my…now almost thousand town hall meetings, and let me assure you, I don’t think the word contraception has ever come up except in the context of this HHS [issue]. Let’s just deal with reality instead of what the media tries to do, which is to pigeonhole you and tell a narrative. The bottom line is, yes I do talk about the family, but I talk about it in the context of the economy and in the context of a strong foundation for our country, and that is an important issue, and I will talk about it.

Scarborough: Well, I’ve certainly talked about your focus on this in the past. You’ve known me for a long time, do you think I’m trying to pigeonhole you and stereotype you?

Santorum: Well, the fact that you continue to bring it up. Yeah, sure! I don’t talk about this Joe. This is not the theme of my campaign.

Scarborough: I think my record on this in Congress was the same as yours. All I’m saying is it is a legitimate issue; we brought it up and I was ready to move on and you wanted to keep talking about it and said I was trying to pigeonhole you and stereotype you. I’ve known you a long time, and I have no reason for doing that.

Rick Santorum: Mitt Romney is a big government heavyweight

Updated