Voters need to send "a whole new team" to town to change the perception that Washington is hostile to business and job creation, potential Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum told CNBC.
Using a familiar criticism that President Barack Obama is anti-business and is thus responsible for the weak economic recovery, Santorum pointed to nationalized health care and over-regulation as two examples of ways in which the White House has contributed to the prolonged slowdown.
"When you have a president who's just fixated on centralizing more power in Washington, D.C., making crony capitalism decisions as to who the winners are and who the losers are, that's going to have an impact on our economic growth and those jobs," said Santorum, a former two-term senator from Pennsylvania.
The White House has sought in recent months to counter the perception, most recently announcing an initiative to get rid of redundant and unnecessarily regulationsdeemed repressive to growth.
But that hasn't changed the direction of the economy: job gains remain slow as unemployment is mired at 8.9 percent, housing is stuck in a recessionary climate and economists have been ratcheting down the growth projections for the year.
For Santorum, a likely GOP candidate who has failed to gain much traction in the popularity polls so far, the weak recovery provides fertile ground for criticism.
"This is a president who is a true believer," he said. "This is not someone who is just incompetent in managing the economy, but this is someone who believes in a different paradigm in how the economy is going to function and he is going to stick with that paradigm whether it works or not."
Santorum said he is in favor less regulation, though not abolishing it completely, and pledged to attack the spending problems in Washington.
He is perhaps the only of the GOP aspirants who fully endorses the deficit reduction plan put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. The proposal is the most aggressive plan yet in Washington to take on entitlement programs, essentially privatizing Medicare and making Medicaid a block grant program to be administered by individual states.
But the plan has been rejected in Congress so far.
"It is a great first step," Santorum said. "It is not the only step, but it is a great first step in moving the country forward."
While the plan may not be perfect, it's better than anything the opposition has offered, he added.
"We need to do a better job of laying out what the problem is confronting the country and saying, 'There's our solution. Where is there's?'" he said. "The fact is, they don't have one."