December 31st, 2011
06:27 PM ET
3 years ago

Marathon man Santorum in a final sprint to the finish line

Knoxville, Iowa (CNN) - It was slightly off script for GOP contender Rick Santorum to make a pit stop at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Iowa.

After all, he’s been the marathon man of the Iowa caucuses.

Unlike his more well-financed rivals, Santorum has emerged from the back of the GOP pack after a long slog on a shoestring budget. His road warrior campaign would be the envy of any political Iron Man: 360 town halls in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Contrast that with Mitt Romney, who is now only on his ninth trip to Iowa.

Speeding through a series of five stops across Iowa Saturday, Santorum called on caucus-goers to reward his months of hard work.

“I think you reward the candidate that you've had the opportunity to test and see not just what their ads say but what's really in their heart, in their head,” Santorum told CNN.

Santorum argues his many laps around the Iowa track have made him a better candidate.

“I can answer most questions. I have a good idea why I believe what I believe, not just trying to form the answer that may sound the best,” Santorum added.

Santorum is widely seen as the latest conservative in the field to audition for the role of the un-Romney in the race for the GOP nomination. Just don’t tell that to Santorum, who sees that narrative as little more than Beltway hype.

“You can go through 'it's a two-person race' every six weeks," Santorum said. "The pundit class has blown it in this election. Why? Because it's not like a typical election.”

But Santorum is offering Iowans a subtle but unmistakable contrast with Romney.

“They don't need to settle for something less because some folks convinced them that's what we need to do to win,” Santorum said in an interview with CNN.

Polls show Santorum’s real battle is for third place with Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich.

Although a new Des Moines Register poll, taken between Tuesday and Friday, showed him in third place behind Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, results from just Thursday and Friday considered separately showed him in second place. He received 21% behind Romney's 24% and ahead of Paul's 18%.

That explains why Perry has spent much of the last week blasting Santorum’s record of supporting earmarks during his time in the Senate.

But in an interview on CNN’s weekend political program “The Contenders,” Santorum hit back.

“Governor Perry hired people to go to Washington, D.C, and get money for Texas,” Santorum said in defense of his history of supporting Congressional pet projects.

“When taxpayers send their money from the state of Pennsylvania, my job is to make sure the state of Pennsylvania gets their fair share of that,” Santorum added.

The former senator has steadily drawn larger crowds in the final days before the caucuses. Aides argue Santorum's retail politics approach will pay dividends Tuesday night.

The campaign estimates it has enough volunteers to cover 70% of the state’s caucus sites.

Santorum, who spoke at a caucus site in 2004 on behalf of President George W. Bush, insists he understands the process all too well. Iowa caucus-goers are “not your average voter,” Santorum says.

“They're giving these candidates a scrubbing and then making a recommendation,” Santorum said.

Aides say Santorum plans to travel directly to New Hampshire after the Iowa caucuses. The marathon man will have to shift gears quickly. With the New Hampshire primary set for January 10th, Santorum will have just one week to make his mark.


Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Rick Santorum
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Kitty from PA

    The folks in Iowa only need ask themselves one special question before voting for this guy – WHY DID HIS OWN STATE REJECT HIM AND THROW HIM OUT OF OFFICE?

    December 31, 2011 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  2. Rusty

    Santorum is still relevent?

    December 31, 2011 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  3. enough of the wicked "O"

    obama signs away Americans Freedoms, time for rebellion against the Faciat and Marxist DC Elites, Start the movement to rebellion today.

    December 31, 2011 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  4. tcaros

    Santorum is what you'd call "a last resort" for despeerate conservative knot heads.

    December 31, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  5. Squigman

    He can't quit soon enough, to suit me.

    December 31, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    Just too weird - he took a deceased baby home to get family pictures made. Just too weird.

    December 31, 2011 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. Drake

    Other than 'I am more conservative than the other guy' I don't know what new ideas he has.

    The recession punchuated the end of 8 years of Repubican government. Do we really want to go back?

    December 31, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  8. T'sah from Virginia

    ►Marathon man Santorum in a final sprint to the finish line◄
    Yep, just a "short sprint" and then he will soon be wasting his time
    It's Santorum's "snarls" and Romney's voice and smacking of lips
    That make them look less presidential and on a "dead end" trip!!

    Obama 2012 – Happy New Year!!

    January 1, 2012 12:38 am at 12:38 am |
  9. Marry

    He has just about as much a chance to move from the bottom of the GOP/TP barrel up to the WH as you have in a system of unregulated, free markets to move up through the “trickle down” system of the “true conservatives”! But perhaps this illusion is why they try even though they know they are totally unqualified for the Presidency and too many still vote for them because they love bedtime stories of grandeur before going to sleep!

    January 1, 2012 02:24 am at 2:24 am |
  10. bassman

    I am not surprised by Santorum's surge after Gov. Palin gives him a thumbs up.

    January 1, 2012 07:27 am at 7:27 am |