Rick Santorum: Gingrich Puts Social Issues on the 'Back of the Bus'

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GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Republican front-runner Newt Gingrich puts social issues on "the back of the bus" and said that voters in early states should consider the candidates' personal background when heading to the voting booth next month.

"I think character is definitely an issue," Santorum told "This Week" anchor Christiane Amanpour. "I think they have to make a decision based upon the person's entire record. And certainly character counts."

Gingrich received another boost to his campaign Saturday – a first place showing in the latest Iowa poll by The Des Moines Register.

Gingrich leads the field with 25 percent support, followed by Ron Paul with 18 percent and Mitt Romney with 16 percent.

Santorum trailed at the back of the pack with just 6 percent.

Santorum, who has been married 21 years and has seven children, contrasted himself with the twice-divorced Gingrich, who he said has not consistently stood up for conservative social values.

"I think Newt has consistently put those in, let's say, the back of the bus," Santorum said of Gingrich on social issues. "He has never really been an advocate of pushing those issues."

As some conservative voters have done, Santorum also questioned Mitt Romney's changing positions on several key issues over his political career, from immigration to abortion to health care.

"There's no question that Mitt has moved. The question is, you know, what's the sincerity of the move and whether he can be trusted," Santorum said. "The best indication of what someone is going to do in the future is what they've done in the past."

Santorum is staking his candidacy in Iowa, hoping he can become a dark horse contender in the coming weeks who draws social conservative voters unhappy with the front-runners.

He has spent more time in the Hawkeye state than any other candidate, visiting all 99 counties this campaign season.

"I'm actually encouraged that the people of Iowa, as they go down to the end here, start looking at all the candidates. We think we're going to do very, very well," Santorum said. "We have a very strong, consistent conservative message that matches up better with Iowans than anybody else. And we think we're going to surprise a lot of people."

Despite his low showing in the latest polls, Santorum believes he will gain traction as other former front-runners continue to slip.

"We're within the margin of error of both Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, both of whom have had enormous attention by the national media, and have had money and resources," Santorum said. "Rick Perry is running literally millions of dollars of ads in Iowa, and he is right next to me in the polls."

Santorum does believe he has to exceed expectations, finishing ahead of several candidates in Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus to be able to continue his bid – and even believes he could take the top spot through strong ground organization to draw undecided voters.

"Look, I think we have a very good chance of winning Iowa," Santorum said. "We've spent the time in the state, we've talked to the activists… And we'll have people at those caucuses advocating for us because I've been in their county. They know my message. They know what I want to accomplish."

Santorum also hopes to capture some of the supporters of Herman Cain, who suspended his presidential campaign amid allegations of a 13-year affair with an Atlanta businesswoman.

Santorum expressed sympathy for Cain ending his presidential bid, but said he had made the right decision.

"Herman has gone through a very, very difficult time for himself and his family. And I think he made the right decision to go – to leave for his family and for the country," Santorum said. "It was clearly a distraction that was not going to go away."

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