01:30 - Source: CNN
Santorum: I would accept Jenner's endorsement
Washington CNN —  

Meet Rick Santorum, 2.0.

He was conservatives’ pick to take on Mitt Romney in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, but in an exclusive interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday night Santorum seemed ready to turn over a new leaf.

The former Pennsylvania senator once compared homosexuality to beastiality. But he showed a more accepting tone on Thursday, saying he would accept an endorsement from transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner. (Jenner said in an interview she is a Republican).

“If that’s the way she feels about my candidacy, sure,” he said.

When Jenner went public with her decision, Santorum said he accepted her as a woman and that his “responsibility as a human is to love and accept everybody.”

He struck a similar tone on Thursday night, but suggested he still doesn’t agree with her decision.

RELATED: Caitlyn Jenner gets bipartisan support

“My job as a human being is to treat everybody with dignity or respect – period, stop, full stop, no qualification to that,” he said. “Do I have to agree with their positions on issues or how they see America? Of course not.”

Santorum also said he was open to the idea that humans are contributing to climate change.

“Clearly the earth has warmed,” he said. “I do have questions about what role man plays in this warming. I think there are a lot of folks who do question that.”

He said, however, the scientific consensus is still out on that and that, more importantly, the policies arising from the belief that humans are contributing to climate change are “very damaging to the United States of America.”

Santorum’s made strengthening the American family a centerpiece of his second bid for the White House, but said Sen. Lindsey Graham’s single-dom shouldn’t disqualify him from the presidency.

“I think you elect the person to be president,” he said when asked whether the fact Graham has never married should impact his bid. “We’ve had bachelors before in the White House.”

RELATED: Lindsey Graham plan: Sister, ‘rotating First Lady’

And though he’s drawing piddling crowds to Iowa diners, compared to his stunning first-place finish in the 2012 caucuses there, Santorum is totally unfazed. One-on-one contact with as many Iowans as possible, Santorum says, is all part of the plan.

“People can mock and say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s only four or five people.’ In small rural counties, four or five people make all the difference,” he said on CNN.

Santorum raised eyebrows when he encountered only two diners at a stop at a restaurant in Iowa on Monday, but he said his team felt “really good” about signing them both up as volunteers, and that one will advocate for him at the caucuses next year.

And he said he was willing to go to “every county in Iowa to recruit three or four people,” which he called a “pretty good hit rate” for a campaign.

“We feel really good that if you go to a town with 350 people, if you get four, five, that’s actually not a bad percentage of the folks in town,” he said.