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Rick Santorum tells Jay Leno why Romney endorsement was 'buried' (+video)

Rick Santorum told 'Tonight Show' host Jay Leno, 'This was a letter to my supporters – who were for me.' Not Mitt Romney. The socially liberal Leno also pressed Mr. Santorum on cultural issues.

By Staff writer / May 9, 2012

In this April 2 file photo, then Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks in Shawano, Wis. The ex-presidential candidate told Jay Leno on 'The Tonight Show' Tuesday night, the endorsement for Romney was 'kind of buried,' as Leno put it, in the e-mail to supporters.

Jae C. Hong/AP

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Rick Santorum had a reason for endorsing Mitt Romney late at night, in the 13th paragraph of an e-mail to supporters.

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Rick Santorum told Jay Leno Tuesday night he had a reason for endorsing Mitt Romney late at night, in the 13th paragraph of an e-mail to supporters.

“We decided to put it out late at night so it would be sort of the first thing people would see in the morning,” the ex-presidential candidate told Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” Tuesday night. The endorsement had gone out at 11 o'clock the night before.

Besides, Mr. Santorum joked, it wasn’t really all that late. “We have seven kids so we don’t sleep,” laughed the former Pennsylvania senator, wearing his trademark sweater vest. (He gave Mr. Leno one, too.)  

Why was the endorsement “kind of buried,” as Leno put it, in the e-mail to supporters? Because, in essence, the message was about him, not Mr. Romney.

“This was a letter to my supporters – who were for me – to say, ‘Well, here’s now why I think we should rally around Mitt Romney and support him,’ " Santorum said.

Leno reminded Santorum that he had once called Romney “the worst Republican” to take on President Obama. Santorum said he was referring specifically to “Obamacare,” the health-care reform based on Romney’s fix of the Massachusetts system when he was governor. Leno defended “Romneycare,” saying people in his native state seemed happy with it – and asked Santorum how he’d feel if all the states put in place similar reforms, given conservative support for states’ rights.

Santorum: “Can you imagine what ‘The Tonight Show’ would look like if the government ran ‘The Tonight Show’?”

Leno: “I see what it looks like with NBC running it!”

Leno also asked why Republicans, known for promoting strong defense and fiscal policy, now focus so much on cultural issues, which he called “diversions.”

“It’s the culture, it’s not the economy,” Santorum said. “The culture matters. Look at every great civilization. They don’t fail because a foreign power overtakes them. Oh, ultimately a foreign power destroys them, but they were all destroyed before the foreign power took them over. They were falling, they were failing as a culture.”

“The economy – yeah, it’s important,” he added. “But the culture is what holds people together.”

Perhaps this was a hint at Santorum’s next step? In his e-mail to supporters, he had promised a “big announcement” soon – one that will involve asking them “to once again join forces with me to keep up the fight, together.”

Santorum is best known as a culture warrior. The socially liberal Leno peppered him with questions about gay adoption and teen contraception. Santorum happily stood his ground. But he made clear he doesn’t think the government should ban all things he personally believes are wrong, such as contraception and smoking.

“So a gay couple smoking with a contraceptive would be the worst thing,” Leno quipped.

“Heaven forbid!” Santorum laughed.

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