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Santorum defensive of education policy on 'Fox News Sunday'

March 04, 2012|By Seema Mehta
  • Rick Santorum speaks at Bowling Green State University in Ohio on Saturday.
Rick Santorum speaks at Bowling Green State University in Ohio on Saturday. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images )

Reporting from Bowling Green, Ohio -- Rick Santorum repeatedly fumbled on Sunday morning, with statements from his 2006 Senate campaign contradicting his current views on No Child Left Behind and placing him squarely in agreement with President Obama's call for post-high-school education or training.

On "No Child Left Behind," President Bush's signature education reform law that is now deeply unpopular among GOP voters, Santorum told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he voted for it because he supported increased testing provisions for schools, but did not like the increased spending.

Wallace highlighted a statement on Santorum's 2006 reelection website that noted Santorum's support for the act and called it "the most historic legislative initiative enhancing education opportunities to pass Congress in decades." Wallace also noted that Santorum later said he "took one for the team" in voting for the act, and Santorum denied making such a statement.

"That's not true, that's not true, I didn't say that," Santorum said. "I said that I supported it and then I've said subsequently that I made a mistake."

Santorum clearly said during a Feb. 22 debate that he voted for the measure out of party loyalty.

"It was against the principles I believe, but when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake," he said at a debate in Mesa, Ariz.

Santorum backed down over a statement he made recently that called President Obama a "snob" for saying all Americans should attend college. Wallace noted there was no evidence that the president had made such a statement, and rather had called on all Americans to do something after finishing high school, whether college, vocational training or an apprenticeship, a statement similar to what Santorum has said.

Santorum said he had read that the president called on all Americans to go to college somewhere, and "if it was in error then I agree with the president, we should have options for people to go to a variety of training options," he said.

On healthcare, Santorum stood firm in his religious beliefs that contraception was wrong and said the debate about the Blunt amendment and what insurers were required to provide was not about contraception but about religious freedom.

"I'm reflecting the views of the church that I believe in," Santorum said. "We used to be tolerant of those beliefs. I guess now when you have beliefs that are consistent with the [Catholic] Church, somehow now you're out of the mainstream? That to me is a pretty sad situation when you can't have personally-held beliefs. But that's not what the issue is about. The issue is about whether government can force you to do things that are against your conscience."

Santorum, who is in a tight race with Mitt Romney in Tuesday's critical primary in Ohio, said he expected to do well in Ohio and in several other Super Tuesday states, including Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. He said once the contest narrows to a two-man race between himself and Gingrich, he expected to win, but he declined to call on Newt Gingrich to drop out.

"Eventually, hopefully, this race settles out and we'll get a chance to go one-on-one, and once that happens, we feel very comfortable we're going to win this thing," he said.

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