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The Gazette KCRG
Posted December 27, 2011
Santorum: Electability shouldn’t be issue for Iowa precinct caucusgoers

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a town hall meeting at the Fort Dodge GOP Headquarters, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2011, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

 

By JON ERICSON/jonathan.ericson@wcfcourier.com

CEDAR FALLS — Rick Santorum wants to cross electability off the list of negatives voters may hold against him.

The former senator from Pennsylvania has logged more time in Iowa than any other candidate, having visited all 99 counties. Sometimes those events have drawn crowds you can count on one hand. But in recent weeks, as Iowans start ramping up for the Jan. 3 caucuses, Santorum’s events have started to attract larger and larger crowds. He drew more than 65 people twice Tuesday evening, first to Scratch bakery in downtown Cedar Falls and then to the Waterloo Center for the Arts.

In both stops, he tried to convince voters that they can vote for a staunch conservative like himself and not have to settle for a moderate Republican to beat Barack Obama in a general election. He challenged voters to think for themselves and get out to caucus for the candidate who represents them.

“Don’t defer your judgement to national polls or national pundits,” Santorum said. “Do what you do best, use your heart, use your head, do your research and then lead.”

Santorum has taken grassroots politics seriously in Iowa, holding town hall meetings in small coffee shops, tour businesses small and large and fielding questions from Iowans from every nook and cranny in the state. He hopes that work pays off against rivals who have outspent him on mailings and television ads.

He cites Ronald Reagan’s legacy in his quest for the Republican nomination. He said Reagan beat an incumbent Democrat by running on conservative values.

As he reaches out to voters, Santorum pulls out a trademark phrase he repeats at most campaign stops, “All the other candidates will tell you they need your help. They’re lying. I need your help,” Santorum says with the emphasis on the second “need.”

Santorum still polls in single digits after all that time in Iowa, but his supporters feel a shift in momentum as he picked up key endorsements last week from Christian conservative leaders Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley.

An Iowa State/Gazette/KCRG poll conducted last week showed 38 percent of likely Republican caucus goers still hadn’t settled on a candidate. Some of those were out Tuesday trying to nail down their decision.

Sid Morris of Cedar Falls has been out to meet all the major Republican candidates. He said he can’t make up his mind without attending events.

“To me it’s all about honesty. I pride myself on my sense of perception and you can get a good sense of who they are when you’re face to face,” Morris said.

D.J. Heerts of New Hartford said she’s hasn’t yet decided, but Santorum is one of those at the top of her list. Her biggest concern is getting Obama out of office. She’s a values voter and wants someone who has an ear to what Iowans have to say.

“I really have a great fear for our country and where we’re going with our corrupt leadership. That goes for the president and Congress,” Heerts said.

In Waterloo, Santorum talked about how he had beaten incumbent Democrats in a Pennsylvania House district that leaned toward the Democrats and two Senate races in a state with more registered Democrats than Republicans. He noted that Pennsylvania will be swing state this year and he was able to win there as a conservative.

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