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Santorum: Rubio’s support of immigration bill could hurt presidential prospects

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
Yahoo! News

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Former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is quietly laying the groundwork for another presidential run, said on Wednesday that Republican presidential hopefuls who support the federal immigration overhaul will struggle to find support among the party's primary voters in 2016.

During an interview on the Andrea Tantaros radio show, Santorum said lawmakers like Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a lead author of the Senate bipartisan immigration bill, would suffer "consequences" for supporting the bill if they choose to run for president.

"The issue of immigration and respecting the rule of law in this country is a very important thing for Republican voters across the country. The idea that there are Republicans in Washington, D.C., who are going to say, 'Well, the rule of law isn't that important, the idea of people coming into this country have done so illegally and we're going to basically treat them the same as people who came here legally,' is just not going to go over well in a Republican primary," Santorum said when asked specifically if Rubio's support for an immigration overhaul would hurt his chances in 2016. "I think there's going to be certainly consequences for folks who don't understand the importance of the respect for the rule of law that Republicans have."

Conservatives have criticized Rubio for his work on the immigration bill, which offers a pathway to legality for immigrants living in the country unlawfully. Rubio said on Tuesday that he plans to announce a decision on a presidential run in 2014.

When Santorum first ran for president in 2012, he won the popular vote in 11 primary and caucus elections. Although he conceded the race to Mitt Romney in April 2012, Santorum has continued to advocate for his ideas through a nonprofit group and give speeches in Iowa regularly. Santorum announced last week that he has joined EchoLight Studios, an entertainment company that produces faith-based films, as CEO.

In the interview with Tantaros, Santorum said he was "very open" to running for president again.

"The position I've taken here at this movie studio, EchoLight, has not in any way changed my thinking on running again in 2016. I'm very open to that. I think that, in fact, that some of the work that I'm doing at the movie studio is actually in concert with that," he said. "I think this is probably a good way to spend my time and energy potentially between two runs."

Santorum even took an early jab at possible Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton when asked about her handling of the attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, while she was secretary of state.

"I don't think she's the right candidate for the country, and I'm hopeful that if you look at her entire record, that it precludes her," Santorum said.

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