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Santorum: Voters need to focus on ‘root cause’ of jobless rate

On Fox News Monday night, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum tried to clarify a recent remark that he didn't "care" about the unemployment rate, saying that jobs and the economy were "important" issues but also symptoms of larger concerns.

"What I said was that the unemployment rate — it didn't matter what it was between now and election time, because the fundamental issue that's causing the unemployment, that's causing the economic distress in our country, is the fact that the government is imposing its will and mandating things on people and creating a yoke on top of businesses that makes it hard to employ," Santorum said.

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"So if you want to solve the unemployment problem, you have to solve the regulatory tax and government oppression problem," he continued. "So one is the cause of the other. So it's not that unemployment isn't important, it's just you have to get to the foundational root cause of what is causing the unemployment."

Earlier in the day at a rally in Illinois, one day ahead of that state's primary in the GOP race, Santorum had said: "I don't care what the unemployment rate's going to be." The former Pennsylvania senator said voters needed to focus on electing a candidate who would be "a fighter for freedom."

Mitt Romney's campaign, which has attempted to paint their chief GOP rival as an "economic lightweight," quickly pounced on the remark.

"I'm concerned about the people who are out of work," said Romney. "One of the people who's running also for the Republican nomination today said that he doesn't care about the unemployment rate; that doesn't bother him. I do care about the unemployment rate. It does bother me. I want to get people back to work."

—Alicia Cohn contributed.

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