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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 1, 2012
Santorum getting more scrutiny as he surges in Iowa

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is surrounded by news media following a campaign appearance at the Indianola Public Library Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, in Indianola, Iowa. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

 

DES MOINES – Late-surging GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum’s burst into the Iowa spotlight also made him the target of rivals on Sunday TV interview shows as Republicans frantically woo the remaining undecided voters who will shape the outcome in Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses.

The former Pennsylvania senator posted a surprisingly strong showing in a new Des Moines Sunday Register poll, posting a third-place position at 15 percent behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 24 percent support among likely voters in Iowa while Texas Congressman Ron Paul with 22 percent.

However, Santorum’s biggest move came in recent days in a race in which a sizable number of likely caucus participants say they still could switch candidates by Tuesday night. Poll support for other GOP rivals competing in Iowa stood at 12 percent for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 11 percent for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and 7 percent for Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann had just 7 percent support.

“My surge is going to come on Jan. 3, after the people of Iowa do what they do,” Santorum said during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.

“We feel very good about the way that things are going on the ground. We’ve got a great grassroots organization,” he added. “We’re going to have a big jump here in Iowa. I don’t know what it’s going to be.”

But during separate interviews on “Fox News Sunday,” Perry and Bachmann took turns attacking Santorum’s conservative credentials.

“He’s got a spending problem, he’s got an earmark problem, he voted eight times to raise the debt ceiling in the United States Senate,” Perry said in differentiating himself with Santorum, noting that the former Pennsylvania senator voted for “the bridge to nowhere” in Alaska and a Montana sheep institute during his 16 years in Washington. “Those are question that people in Iowa are going to look at and say, ‘wait a minute, you’re telling us you’re a fiscal conservative?’ People are scratching their heads when they hear him say that and then look at his record.”

For her part, Bachmann touted herself as “the full-compliment” conservative in the 2012 GOP field and pointed to Santorum’s defense of his votes for earmarks as evidence “he’s been a big spender in Washington D.C.”

“I’m not trashing the candidates, it’s just a point of clarity,” she said.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., son of Ron Paul, sounded a similar criticism against Santorum, calling him “a big government moderate” who hasn’t been put under the political microscope like other GOP candidates because he previously had showed poorly in Iowa polls. “He hasn’t had the scrutiny that others have had. When he gets the scrutiny, he’ll have the same problem that other fair-weather conservatives have had,” said Paul, who noted that his father is “surging right at the right time” as the caucuses approach.

During his “Meet the Press” interview, Santorum defended his record in Washington and cast himself as the most electable conservative alternative to front-running Romney.

Also the same program, Matt Strawn, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, predicted a “strong” turnout at Iowa’s 1,774 precinct caucuses based on growth in Republican registrations, heightened interest and volatility in the 2012 presidential election, and the second-highest turnout in last August’s GOP straw poll in Ames.

“I think we are set up to have a strong turnout,” said Strawn, who re-emphasized that Iowa’s role is to start the process rather that pick the ultimate nominee. “We’re first. We’re not last. We’re not the decider. We start winnowing the field,” he said.

Gov. Terry Branstad made the same assessment and told both CNN and Fox interviewers that he expected Iowa would play a key role in the general election when Republicans hope to make President Barack Obama a one-term president.

“I think there’s a good chance to beat Obama. We launched him. We want to sink him,” Branstad told CNN.

The five-term GOP governor said he believes Romney and Paul will do well, that Santorum is “coming on” using the traditional retail strategy in Iowa, and that Perry is “going to do better than some people think.” Branstad also criticized former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman for mistakenly bypassing Iowa, predicting during a Fox TV appearance “he’s toast” in the Jan. 11 New Hampshire primary because of it.

Traditionally, Branstad said there are “three tickets out of Iowa” and that could hold true again this year, although he noted that some lower-tier finishers in Iowa could hang on until the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary.

“It is a wide open race. It’s very fluid. Any of the candidates potentially could win here,” Branstad said heading into Tuesday’s lead-off caucuses. “It all depends on who turns out. I believe we’re going to have a good turnout. It’s going to be interested to see what happens. I’m very encouraged by what I think will be a big turnout.”

2 Responses to Santorum getting more scrutiny as he surges in Iowa

  1. For those who Say Santorum is the King of Pork – tell that to CITIZENS AGAINST GOVERNMENT WASTE – one of the TOP authorities in the country when it comes to the issue of PORK BARREL SPENDING:

    They gave his 2004 record an 80% while giving his 2005 record a68%

    http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/27054/rick-santorum

  2. When it comes to BUDGET, SPENDING and TAXES, Santorum has a GOOD (though not perfect) VOTING RECORD:

    2006 FreedomWorks – Positions 83%
    2005 Americans for Tax Reform – Positions 95%
    2005 FreedomWorks – Positions 63%
    2005 National Taxpayers Union – Positions 69%
    2004 Americans for Tax Reform – Positions 95%
    2004 American Shareholders Association – Positions 90%
    2004 National Taxpayers Union – Positions 83%
    2004 Taxpayers for Common Sense – Positions 20%
    2003-2004 FreedomWorks – Positions 86%
    2003-2004 National Tax Limitation Committee – Positions 95%
    2003 Americans for Tax Reform – Positions 100%
    2003 American Shareholders Association – Positions 100%
    2003 National Taxpayers Union – Positions 81%
    2002 Americans for Tax Reform – Positions 100%

    http://www.votesmart.org/candidate/evaluations/27054/rick-santorum

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