Borg: Winning Iowa's presidential preference caucus is a prize. And former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has achieved it, during the most recent presidential election cycle, 2012, edging out eventual nominee Mitt Romney by 34 votes. He's 57 years old, holds MBA and law degrees and 16 years' congressional experience, two terms in the House and two in the Senate. Senator Santorum, in all of the appearances that you've made you may not remember being here before, but it is a welcome back to the Iowa Press table.

Santorum: Oh yes, definitely. I remember this very, very well and appreciate the opportunity to come back. Thank you, Dean.

Borg: I remember too a family of seven children, are they all doing well?

Santorum: Everybody is doing great. People ask -- I was in Henry County last night and people were asking, how's your daughter Bella doing, because people here, you remember during the campaign she went through a very difficult time, hospitalization and a lot of folks were praying for her. And we're just so thankful that she has done exceptionally well and she's now seven years old and going strong and just thank everybody for your prayers.

Borg: Good news.

Santorum: Thank you.

Borg: And for all the time you spent in Iowa, you know the two across the table, but I want to introduce them to our listeners. Political writers Kathie Obradovich with the Des Moines Register and James Lynch writing for the Gazette published in Cedar Rapids.

Lynch: Senator, prediction polls give you a 1% chance of getting the nomination. You're polling 12th in Iowa, 14th in New Hampshire, I think you're 16th in money raised. If these were your vital signs, you'd be on life support. What is the prognosis for recovery and winning one of those three tickets out of Iowa?

Santorum: Yeah, I remind everybody that four years ago there was a poll taken and Rick Perry was at 29% and Mitt Romney was at 18%, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain were all in either double digits or high single digits and I was at 1%. And four months later I won the Iowa caucuses. And the reason I did is because I went out and talked to Iowa voters. And I've been away from the scene. Unlike Mitt Romney who basically never stopped running for president between 2008 and 2012, I went back and took care of my family and had to provide for them and really took a respite from politics. And when I looked at the situation that is confronting the country and the message that we have, I just felt like I had to get back out there. And I understood we'd be starting all over again, starting in the back of the pack again. But as I mentioned, Henry County last night and other places, we're getting a great reception here. It feels a lot like what happened four years ago. And I believe once people look at the positive vision we have to make America the strongest nation in the world again and the ability for me to be able to execute on that, I think that is what separates us. We have a strong, positive vision that is going to unify this country. And secondly, we have a track record in Washington that actually gets things done and nobody in this field can make that case.

Obradovich: You've got sort of a case of deja vu going as far as the numbers are concerned from four years ago, but it's four years later, you have won the Iowa caucuses, what feels different to you about the campaign this time? And what feels different than what you expected when you launched this race again?

Santorum: I would say a lot more confusion because there's just so many candidates and people feel like, wow, there's so many good people out here.

Obradovich: So among the voters people are confused?

Santorum: Yeah, voters are, maybe confused isn't a good word, just not sure how, what they're going to do. I get a lot of very strong feedback that we're on their list and if you look at our popularity numbers in Iowa they're really very strong and we feel very good about that. But it's early. And you're going to see, as this campaign goes on, day-by-day, issues are going to pop up, we're going to start to see who the real folks are, who the pretenders are, who is going to identify with the majority of Iowa voters, who is not, and that process has not really even begun yet. And so once I think people begin to look at more details of what these candidates are about, look at what they can accomplish, look at the fact whether they can win or not -- one of the things that I advocate on for me is that I've won a tough state in Pennsylvania and in a presidential election, in an election year where the President lost my state in 2000, I was able to win by and separate myself from 9 points above the President's numbers. That is a big deal. And to be able to go out in a presidential election year and win a blue state, no one else, no one else in this race has won a tough state in a presidential election year but me.

Obradovich: Does the lack of a Straw Poll push back people's decisions? And are you feeling like you're as organized on the ground as you were going into the Straw Poll?

Santorum: I would say not having a Straw Poll does probably put you back a little bit from an organizational perspective because people expected to be committed and organized and do things. So, as an organizational tool it does put you behind. But the advantage I have is that we've got a pretty good strong grassroots organization here that we built four years ago that we're reconstituting as opposed to starting from scratch, which many of the candidates are, and not having the advantage of a Straw Poll probably hurts them more than it hurts us.

Borg: But what about campaign resources? Is there a difference this time? Now, last time around, you may dispute what I'm going to stay, but you were running on a shoestring as far as finances, compared to Mitt Romney. This time you've really got to differentiate yourself from 16 others. Do you have the campaign fund access that it's going to take to do that?

Santorum: Here's what I'd say. We're running the campaign we want to run. We have a full complement of staff here in the state of Iowa. By the end of this month we'll have seven people on the ground, we had I think six last time, so we have more people on the ground than we did last time, we have a bigger national staff than we had four years ago because we're running a much more national campaign than we ran four years ago. We don't really need, at this point in time, the resources that maybe some of these other candidates feel they have to -- I travel around in middle seats in economy class and we get out there and talk to voters. I think most of the folks in this campaign are spending most of their time raising money. I spent most of my time talking to voters. And you can't do both. I mean, if you're out here in Iowa talking to voters, you're not raising money. Now, you can call people up in between, although particularly if you get in some of the more rural areas in Iowa it's not a great time to call people and ask for money because you drop the call three or four times. But it's a choice. And I really choose to put my faith in the people of Iowa that if I get a chance to meet with them one-on-one, we're going to be the number one manufacturing country in the world because we're going to make things happen here to put people back to work, talk about our experience in national security --

Borg: Is that sort of campaign going to put you, though, in the upper tier in the next debate?

Santorum: Probably not. But, again, I don't think -- what I've found from last time around I don't think that's important. What is important is you're going to get an opportunity to be heard, we were heard in the first debate last time. You saw that one of the candidates actually exceeded expectations and was able to do better in the polls. I've run the last campaign, I'll run this campaign, is to believe in the people of Iowa and when the time comes for them to make the decision as to who the best person is to be the President of the United States, they're going to make the right call.

Obradovich: One more question about money, because it is a change from four years ago, everybody has a super PAC and it seems like where there used to be a wall between the campaign and the super PAC it has gotten to be a pretty gauzy little veil now. Do you feel like as you look at other campaigns that people are playing fast and loose with the rules? And do you think that will affect how the campaign plays out from Iowa going forward?

Santorum: I think it probably will have more of an impact after Iowa than it will in Iowa itself, and that is the sustainability of candidates. You look at one candidate pretty much shut down his campaign, but yet is continuing the campaign. That could have never happened in previous election years but it's happening now. And so what does that mean? Well, that if you have a big enough super PAC, even after you lose Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, if you've still got $10 million in your super PAC you can keep going and that keeps people in the race longer and there's a lot of talk about what the impact of that will be. Will we have a broker convention? Will we have a nominee? I don't know about any of those things. What I hope will happen is that people, once they recognize that they don't have a chance to win the nomination, that they're just filling space and maybe on life support, their campaigns are on life support, that they'll take a step back and try to do what is in the best interest of trying to defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall.

Obradovich: And if you feel like you reach that point, is that what you're going to do?

Santorum: I did it four years ago. We had a lot of people encouraging us to stay in the race when we ended up dropping out back in April of 2012, we had won 11 states, we had just won Louisiana and came very, very close, in spite of the establishment coming down hard on us and losing Wisconsin, and we were going to my home state. So we very well could have stayed in this race but I took a step back and said, you know, the chances of us getting there are probably pretty slim right now and are we doing more damage than we are good and we decided to step down.

Borg: Let's get Jim Lynch into this.

Lynch: One of the differences we're seeing this year is that four years ago in Iowa, especially among the social conservatives, they were looking for a candidate who supported the sanctity of marriage, one man, one woman. This year polls are showing that evangelicals are supporting a guy who has been married three times, who speaks crudely about women and says he has never asked God for forgiveness. What's going on with evangelical voters?

Santorum: Look, I think we're looking through the wrong lens. We saw this four years ago, we've seen this in previous elections, summer romances are fleeting things, people look at a candidate that comes on the scene, shakes things up --

Borg: You're speaking about Michele Bachmann?

Santorum: Well, I'm speaking about Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, there's a lot of folks who actually rose to the top of the polls last summer and the early fall who ended up either not getting a delegate or getting very few delegates. So I think you're going to see this time around a lot of people grab attention, grab headlines and the question is sustainability and once people get to know the candidates a little better and get to the serious time of year where they're actually saying, okay, who do we want to be our president? Not who do we want to shake things up, not who do we want to cheer for and root for because they're giving the media a hard time? That's why I trust Iowans because I know that they'll get serious about who they think the best person should be for president.

Lynch: Do you feel any pressure to sort of respond in kind --

Santorum: No.

Lynch: -- to say something that is going to get attention, to shake things up?

Santorum: No. The other thing I hear from a lot of Iowans is they don't like the fact that the candidates are personally attacking each other and they're uncomfortable with it and I think there's a short life span for that kind of activity. And I didn't do it last time, Newt and Mitt went at each other hammer and tong about their own personal stories and I stayed away from it because I think this campaign should be about issues, certainly issues of character are important, but whether someone is a good businessman or a bad businessman or what they did in their business life, let the people look at that and I'll leave it at that.

Obradovich: There's always outsiders versus the Washington elite or the establishment that happens, that plays out in Iowa every four years. But the rhetoric has gotten sharper, not just anti-Washington but also sort of anti-the part of the Republican Party who maybe doesn't govern the way they campaign. Do you see this election heading toward any sort of shift in how the Republican Party operates or how it views itself once it is actually governing?

Santorum: I think that depends on who the nominee is. I really believe that we represent the best of both, someone who has been a Tea Party outsider when I was in the Congress, for years I've had many publications write that I was a Tea Party guy before there was a Tea Party and was someone who was trying to shake things up in Washington, DC and push for big reforms and was able to get a lot of things done, at the same time fought the establishment every step of the way, I was never the establishment guy. And so what I think I bring to the table is somebody who has a record of reform, has a record of fighting that establishment and when I was in the republican leadership I was the guy constantly trying to push for conservative things and making sure that we were accountable to what we promised the people we said we would do.

Obradovich: But I'm sure that there were times when your leaders --

Santorum: Drove me crazy.

Obradovich: -- promised you things that they didn't deliver. And I didn't see you on TV calling them liars.

Santorum: Well, one of the things I was able to do was actually be inside the tent, I was an elected leader, I was an outsider but I think because we were effective I was elected as a leader within my party and was able to get a lot of those things done. Look at the marriage issue that Jim just referred to. We've had one vote on a marriage amendment in the United States Senate and I forced that vote because I was a member of the leadership at the time. And I was told by many in my party, oh this will never, we'll never have gay marriage, this is an overreaction. I saw it coming and tried to do something about it.

Obradovich: Do voters in the party today accept that there are times when there are things that you say you're going to do on the campaign trail that don't get done because the process is broken in Washington?

Santorum: I think people accept the fact that not everything is going to get done. I think what frustrates them is that in many cases they don't even try, they say well we have to cut a deal, we can't argue this or we can't fight this. I refer to it as Stockholm Syndrome, I think we have so many of our republican leaders who have been there so long, who are so used to getting beat up by the media in Washington, DC and having Barack Obama take them into the wood shed, that they have now decided that they're not going to fight anymore, that they're going to -- instead of standing up to the President on his executive amnesty, which is clearly unconstitutional, instead of fighting, we'll take it to the court, we'll let the court fix it. Well, as a voter that's not what you said you'd do, that's not what this campaign was all about, you said you would stop the President from doing these things and they’re not stopping them and you're saying well we're going to get the court to do it. That's not what you said you'd do. We want you to fight, we don't want you to have the court cover for you.

Borg: Let's get to some current issues. Jim?

Lynch: Four years ago you were probably the champion on the social issues, especially marriage, abortion, those sorts of issues. This year you're talking about blue collar economics. Have you given up saving souls and headed down another path?

Santorum: If you look at -- well my job was never, as a political candidate, to save souls. That's another department. There are some folks who are members of the clergy in this race but I was not one of them. And the answer to your question is, four years ago I introduced a manufacturing plant down in Burlington, over four years ago and made that a central focus of our campaign. We were talking about putting huge tax incentives for manufacturers to restart here in America and we went around and talked about energy and manufacturing, the one-two punch that was going to get America back and growing again. Did we also talk about these other issues? Of course we did. I talk about them now. I make a big point in a book I wrote last year called Blue Collar Conservative, I make a big point of talking about the importance of intact families and how we have to have policies in Washington, DC and have a president who is willing to actually go out there and try to chance the discussion in America so we can have more families and healthier families in America so children have what is their birth right, to be raised by their natural mother and father. And if we don't do that as a society, if we don't try to nurture men and women to come together and form healthy bonds and have children, you're not going to get much of it. In fact, we've seen that over time.

Borg: Let's put you back in the Senate.

Santorum: Please, please.

Borg: Nuclear agreement with Iran, I'm assuming you would vote no if you were still in the Senate. But let's put you in the presidency now, which you could well be, that's what you're seeking.

Santorum: Thank you.

Borg: If it is rejected, where would you go as President Santorum as an alternative?

Santorum: Even if it's accepted I would do the same thing, I would walk into the presidency on day one having done a lot of prepatory work between the November election and January and said to the Iraqi government, here are the terms that you will abide by or else. I would lay out a clear guidelines as to the inspections that would be necessary, the facilities that would be open, the programs that would be dismantled, all of the things that the President should have put on the table as a non-negotiable and lay them on the table and say, you either do those things or we will begin to do things to make life very, very difficult for you to be able to pursue any of those programs.

Obradovich: What is the or else?

Santorum: Or else could be a whole variety of different things. And you start obviously with the reintroduction of sanctions, you start with a whole host of activities that would be short of military activity. There's lots of things that the Israelis and hopefully the United States has done behind the scenes to deter Iran from nuclear capability. The sanctions that were put on Iran, a part of those sanctions came from a bill called the Iran Freedom and Support Act, which I authored in 2005 and 2006. Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and John Kerry all voted no on that bill. But they put sanctions on Iran, we can reintroduce those sanctions but the bill also helped fund an insurgency within Iran. One of the things that the President did was help crush an insurgency. By not supporting them in 2009, he passed over the best opportunity for us to end Iran's nuclear program. By having a revolution in Iran, we throw out these theocrats who are in control. I think there still is a very strong base, it's a very young country, there's a very strong base of support there in Iran that wants to get rid of these theocrats in office and as president I would do a lot to help them.

Obradovich: How do you know though that the insurgency doesn't become another form of ISIS if you throw out the theocrats who have been holding them down?

Santorum: Well, I think you just have to look at the nature of the rest of the Iranian people. These Iranian people have been terrorized, they have been persecuted, they have the imposition of sharia law. Again, this is a country that prior to that was a very pro-western country, it's a very educated group of people, it's a country, unlike Iraq, that has a significant amount of education and wealth, it is a civilization, the Persian civilization, which is very, very different than the Arab civilization that was in Iraq. I think there's a much, much more solid ground for a revolution to be successful and more stable and more pro-western that what we've seen really almost any other country in the region.

Borg: Jim?

Lynch: Well, recently the U.S. has opened diplomatic relations with Cuba. And although I've heard you speak unfavorably of that, is there an opportunity there for the United States to create something, to establish something, is there an opportunity beyond Major League Baseball?

Santorum: This is one of the -- this is a typical move of this President, which is to look at a country that over the past 15 years has spent all their time partnering with Venezuela to flip almost every single country in Central and South America from a pro-western, pro-American, not necessarily strong democracy, but at least a working democracy, to countries that are now Socialist, Marxist and primarily dictators, all because using Venezuelan petro dollars and Cuban Secret Police and the Cuban methodology of flipping countries. And 15 years they have now aligned with China, aligned with Russia, in fact even some of the radical Muslim regimes. And so what do we do after 15 years of them turning the hemisphere against the United States? We reward them. We say we're going to open up an Embassy, we're going to have trade with you. This is exactly -- you just have to wonder whose side Barack Obama is on because he rewards everything a country does to oppose and hurt the United States, hurt our economy, hurt our ability to protect ourselves and he rewards countries that do that and then countries that align with us, Israel as an example, or Columbia as an example, he holds off a free trade agreement for years.

Borg: Are you seeing this as a danger then that is happening now?

Santorum: Cuba has been rewarded for gutting relationships that we have all throughout Central and South America.

Borg: Diplomatic relations, is that a danger?

Santorum: I would say it is a danger because we have now told every country that does things that are against the interest of the United States that you will be rewarded for doing so.

Lynch: Does this set the stage though for a post-Castro Cuba, for the dissidents?

Santorum: As you know, the dissidents have been under more persecution as a result of these negotiations, the result of this openness. This is the ideology of the left, which is that if you placate people that hate you, that they're somehow or another going to become your friends and change their stripes. And what did Castro do just the other day? He says, oh by the way, you owe us reparations. So much for how we have embraced -- what did we do when we reset, Hillary Clinton reset with Russia without Vladimir Putin? He ends up invading Crimea and Ukraine. You can't treat people who are enemies of this country, who do not want America to succeed, you can't allow them to succeed and then reward them for doing it by hurting, in the process of hurting you.

Obradovich: Where do you go as president? Do you close the Embassy? Break off the relations again? Or is that even possible?

Santorum: Of course it's possible. It's possible on day one. The Embassy would close under a Rick Santorum administration. I would not continue, unless there has been a dramatic change in what has gone on in Cuba between now and swearing in, in January, I would not continue to reward a regime that is poisoning the well and hurting American interests in Central and South America.

Borg: What about the strength of U.S. Armed Forces? Are we sufficiently strong, or does a cut need to be made, given the U.S. world role right now?

Santorum: Well, the U.S. world role right now under this President is one of full retreat and pushing our obligations onto people who don't want them, including the United Nations. And as a result those who are hostile to the United States and to our interests, are gaining ground and influence around the world and we're seeing that in every corner of the world from China to Russia to Iran and to other places.

Borg: So you'd increase military strength?

Santorum: Absolutely. We would, from day on, put in place a rebuilding of our military, strengthening our hand so we can back up what we need to do to protect our country.

Lynch: Do we measure military strength just in troop numbers and hardware? Or do we factor in what technology allows us to do?

Santorum: You have to have capability, you have to have people to be able to run your systems. And have we advanced in technology? Of course we have. I was on the Armed Services Committee for eight years during the drawdown of the military from the peace dividend and I was one of the advocates of drawing down a Cold War force that had to be more nimble and agile and capable of fighting at the time we called them asymmetric threats. Asymmetric threats now are called terrorism. So I was on the leading edge of doing that when I was on the committee. And so I understand that we don't need the big heavy force but we still need a capable force and we need a force that particularly if we're going to be involved as we have been, in some of these hot spots around the world, that we aren't stressing out the very few people that we now have remaining in our military and burning those people out so they're not ready and not capable of doing the job.

Obradovich: Despite all the discussion of legal and illegal immigration over the last couple of campaign cycles we're really not any further along than we were eight years ago. What are the consequences of continuing this stasis? Is there a point where this is going to become impossible to reverse?

Santorum: The problem is last year we brought in 1.7 million people in this country, 1.7 million people. That's the largest we've brought in, in almost eight or nine years. Why? Because the President said, if you get here you're going to be able to stay. And so we have seen surges coming across our border of illegal immigrants in addition to the 1 million legal immigrants we bring in. I'm the only person in this race, you have a lot of people talking tough, I'm the only person in this race who has a record that says we are going to control legal immigration and illegal immigration both, tough on the border, tough on visas, tough on e-verify. I have the only A rating from the immigration control groups. The next highest rating is a B- and everybody else in the field is C's, D's and F's. So you want someone who is going to be real on immigration, going to protect American workers, I'm your candidate.

Borg: You were giving grades. Class is over. We're out of time.

Santorum: It goes fast. It's like rapid fire here, I appreciate it.

Borg: Thank you so much for being with us.

Santorum: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to be here guys.

Borg: And we'll be back with another edition of Iowa Press next week, 7:30 Friday night and noon on Sunday. I'm Dean Borg. Thanks for joining us today.