Santorum Mobbed By Press As Polls Place Him Third

Dec 30, 2011 11:48pm

AMES, Iowa–Rick Santorum was mobbed by press at a restaurant here the same day a second state poll placed him third in the race to win the Iowa caucuses just four days away.

In his stump speech, Santorum has consistently dinged the national media for ignoring his campaign. Thursday that ended. He walked into a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant packed with Iowa State Cyclones fans watching the team take on Rutgers at the Pinstripe Bowl. As he entered, he was completely surrounded by cameras as he walked through the bar area greeting patrons. The cameras  stayed with him while he did an interview with Fox News and then walked through the restaurant to his seat.

On Wednesday a CNN/Time poll put him in third place behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, and on Friday an NBC News/Marist poll also placed him third.

Supporters were also on hand to sit at his table, shake his hand and take a picture. One brought him an Iowa State jersey, but he instead took his jacket off and put on an Iowa State sweater vest. The vest  is quickly becoming a trademark trail wardrobe for the former Pennsylvania senator.

When asked if he was overwhelmed by the change in coverage in such a short amount of time, he noted the small amount of press that usually chase him around the state and explained what his “key to success” is.

“We’ve been out here doing this for a long time, working very hard, and the message began to resonate as people started to focus on having to make that decision,” Santorum said to the mass of reporters surrounding him. When asked which early state he would win, he answered, ”How about Iowa?”

“We have a lot of momentum right now,” Santorum said over the wide-screen television sets, the football game blaring. “Third would be great, second would be better, first would be just fine.”

He’s consistently said at almost every stop that once Iowans started to get to know him, they would support him. He’s been campaigning the traditional Iowa way, barnstorming the state, reaching all 99 counties, visiting many of them over and over.

Six weeks ago, ABC News traveled with him in a staffer’s car as he went from town to town, all small campaign events. He said he was convinced this current surge would happen right before voting.

“My strong sense is that people are going to start examining the only candidate they don’t know much about, and I think when they do, obviously I feel confident that we will do well,” Santorum said.

In Ames on Thursday, he said he was focused on “getting our people motivated and out there to vote” and that he will head straight to New Hampshire after the caucuses, adding that the campaign will go on the air with their first ad in the Granite State on Monday.

Although not as aggressively as he’s been campaigning here, he has been steadily stumping in both New Hampshire and South Carolina since entering the race. His trip to New Hampshire after the caucuses will be his 30th to the first primary state.

Santorum is just the latest candidate to surge in a race that has seen almost every person in the race rise and fall — Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain and most recently Newt Gingrich.

He said he’s different and he will be able to sustain a surge because it’s “not my first rodeo” and he’s already had a “scrubbing by the national media.”

Up until now he has been able to escape becoming a target for his opponents, but that changed yesterday when Perry released a radio ad hitting him for supporting earmarks while he was in Congress. On Thursday, Santorum said “it’s always a compliment to be attacked.”

And as for the newfound Santorum-mentum, the candidate was asked if it was a “miracle we are seeing.”

“I’ve been very blessed, no doubt about that,” he said before digging into some wings and a bit of football.

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