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The Gazette KCRG
Posted December 29, 2011
Santorum surges, still looking for ‘bump’ from Iowa caucusgoers

Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum speaks during a campaign stop at the Coralville City Hall, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, in Coralville, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

 

CORALVILLE – Rick Santorum got a lift when a new poll showed his support jumped from 5 percent to 16 percent just a week ahead of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.

After running the most intensive campaign of anyone in the GOP field of 2012 presidential hopefuls, including the first to visit all 99 counties, Santorum was being written off largely because of his single-digit poll performance.

“People have been saying to me, ‘When are you going to get your bump?’” Santorum told about 50 people at the Coralville City Hall Dec. 29.

According to a new CNN poll, he’s getting it. It shows former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul are virtually tied with 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively, with Santorum jumping into third place.

However, the “bump” he’s looking for is yet to come, Santorum said.

“I’ll get that bump on Jan. 3 when the people of Iowa make the decision who they believe can step forward in this process,” Santorum said. “It’s not going to be created by the media. It’s not going to be created by a clever slogan or a glib performance in a debate. It’s going to be based on people looking at all of the candidates and making a decision on who they believe is the best person to step forward and can win this election and run this country.”

His Johnson County Chairwoman Karen Fesler believes that’s exactly what’s happening. The North Liberty Republican activist, who describes the mood among Santorum supporters as “cautiously optimistic,” said Santorum’s late rise in the polls seems consistent with his history as a campaigner.

“He trudges along and no one gives him a chance, he goes where no one else goes and he gets it in the end,” Fesler said. She pointed out the Coralville stop was his 358th Iowa town hall meeting of the campaign.

Those meetings with20 or 30 people at each of 358 town meetings now is paying dividends, added Ray Garringer of Williamsburg. The chairman of the Iowa County Board of Supervisors said Santorum has had two events in the largely rural county “and stopped for coffee a couple of more times.” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann is the only other candidate to campaign there, he said.

“Every candidate is getting national media attention – most more than Santorum, Garringer said, but folks in his county “read about him in the local newspaper. That means something.”

Chuck Laudner, a volunteer with the Santorum campaign, isn’t surprised that the former Pennsylvania senator’s tortoise-like strategy is paying off.

Santorum, the former aide to U.S. Rep. Steve King and Republican Party of Iowa executive director said, “has been on everyone’s short list because there is no question where he stood. He’s the full-spectrum conservative.”

“The question has been viability,” Laudner said. “Seeing Santorum’s poll numbers edge up from 3 percent to 5 percent and from 5 to 7 was huge.”

The Santorum surge suggests to Laudner Iowa conservatives are looking for more than a candidate who can win an election.

If less than a quarter of f Iowa Republicans are supporting Mitt Romney after five years of campaigning “they’re probably looking for a fighter and that’s Santorum.”

“The Tea Party is not looking for someone who can just win,” Laudner said. “They’re not looking for someone to beat Barack Obama by finding the middle ground.

“This is a referendum election,” he said.

Santorum is banking on that “bump” from Iowans to help his campaign after Jan. 3.

“Iowa provides the spark and there is plenty of tinder on the ground,” he said. It will help solidify him as the conservative alternative to Romney and help him turn in a “strong showing” in New Hampshire and “do even better” in South Caroline, the two early primary states.

 

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