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The other 99: Santorum hits all of Iowa's counties

Alex Moe/NBC News

With Rick Santorum's visit to Jackson County, he becomes the first candidate to visit all of Iowa's 99 counties.

MAQUOKETA, Iowa -- Last evening, he finally did it. Rick Santorum became the first candidate in the 2012 presidential cycle to visit all 99 of Iowa’s counties.

“Senator Santorum, welcome to your 99th country,” a campaign aide said amongst cheers as the presidential hopeful walked into the room at Decker House.

The former Pennsylvania senator held a meet and greet here in Jackson County, marking a feat no other candidate in the race is even close to accomplishing.

“We crossed the finish line. I feel great. I've had such a wonderful time visiting all the counties here and seeing all the small towns and the town squares and the diners and you know just the wonderful fabric of Iowa,” Santorum, who made visiting every county in the state one of his campaign pledges, said. “It's been a great and energizing experience for me.”

Despite what a milestone this would be for any campaign, there was just one video camera, one still camera, and one local print reporter who attended the event. Santorum spoke and took questions from a crowd of roughly 20 in the first-in-the-nation caucus state while they munched on vegetables and meatballs provided at the event.

Embarking on this “whirlwind tour of Iowa” came from a tip from one longtime Iowa politician who is 12-0 when it comes to running successful campaigns.

Gov. Terry Branstad said if you really want to win Iowa, you gotta get out and go to all 99 counties and meet people,” Santorum told the crowd. “He's had a pretty good track record of winning here in Iowa so we're trying to follow his advice and I think it will pay off in the end.”

Polling at just 5 percent in the latest Iowa Poll, this Jackson County event concluded another long day on the trail for Santorum who held five events earlier in Southeastern Iowa. Perhaps signifying the importance of the day for his campaign, the senator even wore a sports jacket over one of his typical blue button-down shirts, something he rarely does.

“I think that’s great because he is getting to the people so they know who he is and they recognize him and they have a feeling of being part of it,” Maquoketa resident Mary Hamnam told NBC News after the event. She is leaning towards supporting the former senator.

Santorum isn’t stopping with those 99 counties; he is already back on the stump holding three events in the Hawkeye State today and three on Friday.