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Opinion: Dialogue

VIDEO: Philip Klein discusses blue collar conservatism with Rick Santorum

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For the latest edition of “Dialogue,” Philip Klein sat down with Rick Santorum, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania and former GOP presidential candidate, to discuss his new book, Blue Collar Conservatives.

“We focus on growth, growth, growth,” Santorum said in a critique of the Republican Party. “I'm pro-growth. I'm for lower taxes. But the message is ringing hollow. It's the same message that we've been using for 40 years, and the policies that we talk about to stimulate growth are the same things we've been saying for 40 years and there are a whole swath of people out there who aren't succeeding, and we have to have a message that includes them.”

Though he said that Republicans and conservatives excel when it comes to personal charity, “We don’t include a lot of average Americans, or lower-income Americans, in our vision for how we’re going to make America better.”

Reflecting on the 2012 presidential election, Santorum said GOP nominee Mitt Romney was “a good example of someone who does a lot to help people in his private life, but who came across as somebody who didn't really care or connect with people who are struggling.”

Asked whether he thought he would have performed better in a general election against President Obama, Santorum said, “Well, obviously, that's why I ran. The answer is, of course!”

As for whether he expects to run in 2016, Santorum said, “I'm not telling the truth if I didn't say I'd considered it. Certainly considering it and very actively considering it, but I haven't made any final decisions at this point.”

The wide-ranging conversation also delved into what Santorum thinks the proper role of government is in providing a social safety net, whether a policy emphasis on families can appeal to the 40 percent of the electorate that isn’t married, and whether providing payroll tax relief to Americans would be something he’d support.

“What we have in America is we have very heavy taxes on labor, and not so heavy taxes on capital,” Santorum said. “And then we wonder why we're getting less labor and more capital investment.”

Santorum also said the movement known as libertarian populism -- which aims to show how government policies benefit big business over the little guy -- has “a lot to commend it” but that it is overly purist. He said while he opposed the Wall Street bailouts, he supports the Export-Import Bank, which has been criticized for representing corporate welfare to big corporations like Boeing. He said other countries help to finance exports, and if the U.S. stopped doing so it would “tie our manufacturers' hands behind their backs.”

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Philip Klein

Opinion Editor
The Washington Examiner

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