After Unemployment Flub, Santorum Admits He Sometimes Wishes for a ‘Do-Over’

Mar 19, 2012 11:36pm

EAST PEORIA, Ill. — Hours after he said he doesn’t “care what the unemployment rate’s going to be,” Rick Santorum admitted to an Illinois crowd that he sometimes wishes he had the opportunity for a “do-over.”

“Issues are important in a campaign. But over the next four years, who knows what issues the next president’s going to have to confront. And you’re going to be voting for a person. You’re going to be voting whether that person has the character, the integrity, the honesty, and the courage to be able to take on the challenges that this country faces. And that’s what I’ve tried to do in this campaign,” Santorum said tonight during a rally outside Davis Bros Restaurant.

“Now when you got out there and you don’t talk from a teleprompter, and you’re not, you know, reading notes that someone else gave you, occasionally you say something things, you wish you had a, you know, a do-over,” he said. “But you know what, I think it’s important that you get a sense of how real the candidate is, mistakes and all.”

During a campaign stop in Moline earlier today, Santorum argued that freedom formed the basis of his campaign, but as he tried to make his point, he slipped up and made the unemployment comment, which his main rival, Mitt Romney, quickly pounced on and used in a speech in Peoria.

Santorum later attempted to clarify his statement to reporters, saying he was concerned about unemployment rates but that his “candidacy doesn’t hinge” on them.

He steered clear of citing what he believes will be the most important issue in the 2012 election and instead pointed to a host of “big issues” in the race.

“This is an election about big things. Sure, there are a lot of big issues — the economy’s a big issue, unemployment’s a big issue. Our national security and what’s going on with a nuclear Iran is a big issue,” he said.

Romney and Santorum have traded barbs throughout the past week, trying to paint each other as the “lightweight” in the race, but at his last event in Illinois before the state’s primary Tuesday, Santorum took a page out of the Democratic playbook by using a recent joke of Obama strategist David Axelrod as he poked at Romney’s claim that he is the “economic heavyweight” in the race.

“Governor Romney said that, you know, Rick Santorum is an economic lightweight, as if the person who put in the ‘Romneycare’ and raised taxes by almost a billion dollars as governor of Massachusetts and was 47th out of 50th in job creation where the four years below, Massachusetts was 16th,” he said. “If he’s an economic heavyweight, I’m going to quote David Axelrod. He must be looking in a funhouse mirror. Because if a heavyweight is 47th out of 50 and increasing taxes and putting in huge government programs, then we don’t have much to campaign on as Republicans.

“Ladies and gentleman, we need someone who has a positive plan for America,” he said. “Not just cutting taxes for the high income but our plan talks about making sure that every single American has an opportunity to rise in society.”

In an interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday, Axelrod said, “If (Romney) thinks he’s an economic heavyweight, he must be looking in a funhouse mirror.”

Santorum, who is trailing Romney in the polls in Illinois, will spend primary night in Gettysburg, Pa. Hogan Gidley, national communications director for Santorum, explained in a statement that the site was selected in honor of President Abraham Lincoln’s delivery of “his most poignant and passionate defense of freedom and the American spirit.”

GQ reported today the Secret Service code names selected by the top two Republican candidates: Romney and Santorum. Romney selected the name “Javelin,” while Santorum opted for “Petrus,” which he told reporters while he mingled with the crowd that he selected because it was his grandfather’s name in Latin.

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