Santorum: Long primary process "a great thing"

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum arrives at a campaign rally Feb. 7, 2012, in Blaine, Minn. Getty Images

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum arrives at a campaign rally Feb. 7, 2012, in Blaine, Minn.
Getty Images

Fresh off his three-state sweep on Tuesday, Rick Santorum told CBS News in an interview Wednesday that an extended primary process is a "great thing," brushing aside concerns that a long nomination battle will harm the eventual GOP nominee.

Speaking to CBS News' Dean Reynolds in Dallas, Santorum said the process so far has "made me a better candidate," adding: "Just to be out here and doing 800 town hall meetings - you do better."

Mitt Romney, the frontrunner in the race, is already turning more critical of Santorum in the wake of Santorum's victories Tuesday in non-binding caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, as well the primary in Missouri, where no delegates were conferred. Santorum suggested to Reynolds that while Romney has an "advantage right now" by virtue of his financial edge over his rivals, "he's not gonna have more money than everybody else in the general election."

"And I think folks are looking at this and saying look, if this is the only way he can win, by destroying his opponents, he's not gonna be able to destroy Barack Obama," Santorum continued. "He's not gonna outspend him five to one in any state. So why would we go with someone who can only win by not talking about his record?"

Asked about rival Newt Gingrich, Santorum declined to call on him to leave the race. But he offered a decidedly mixed review of the former speaker, describing him as someone who "has added a lot to the conservative movement over the years and yet has in some respects detracted a lot from the conservative movement."

Santorum, who estimated that he raised half a million dollars since Tuesday morning, said his victories Tuesday were due to "a good message and a good record a vision for the country that's starting to resonate."

"It certainly hasn't been our money," quipped the former Pennsylvania senator. "It's not my good looks."

Reynolds noted to Santorum that all four candidates still in the GOP race are vowing to go all the way to the convention, and asked about the possibility of a multi-ballot convention in Tampa in late August.

"I don't know," Santorum responded. "If the results are anything like last night then I'm feeling good that that won't happen. But obviously this race - if you don't like the tenor of the race today, just wait a week or two. It'll change."

"And I suspect that there will be some ups and downs in this primary process and I fully expect that," Santorum continued. "Our job has been to stay on message and to let the American public know what kind of leader we're going to be. We're not gonna be one that's gonna be jumping around and be a well-oiled weather vane. We're going to stay true to our thing and go out know that they have someone that they can trust if they nominate me to be president."

The Drive: Was Rick Santorum's sweep a game changer?

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