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Santorum to Iowa conservatives: 'Don't settle'

 

DUBUQUE, Iowa -- With a new poll showing a Rick Santorum surge just six days before the Iowa caucuses, the presidential hopeful continued to stress his conservative credentials and take jabs at nearly all his Republican rivals while campaigning through eastern Iowa today.

A CNN/Time Poll released today shows the time Santorum has spent campaigning in Iowa may be starting to pay off. The former Pennsylvania senator gets the support of 16% of likely Iowa caucus-goers, according to the survey. That's an 11-point increase from earlier this month, and it puts him in third place with a comfortable lead over Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann -- the two candidates Santorum said he is most directly competing with for the support of Iowa's most socially conservative caucus goers.

"We have the highest favorable ratings in the state right now. They like the positions I take on the issues," Santorum told reporters before the poll had been released. "They've seen the negative attacks on me, but they're not anywhere near what the other candidates have to deal with and their problems in their past. And that's a plus for us."

A renewed interest in Santorum has been visible on the campaign trail as well. He has consistently drawn crowds between 70 to 100 voters this week. It's a far cry from the numbers Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have been getting (who are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the poll). But it's a huge boost from the number of attendees he's gotten as recently as earlier this month.

Santorum's closing argument to caucus goers is simple: "Don't settle."

"Ladies and gentleman, you have a chance to send a message to the man in New York and Washington," he told a crowd of supporters. "You folks teach them a lesson...as to what Iowans, conservatives want as the candidate coming out of this state. You do that, you will change the dynamic of this race, and you'll have the opportunity to say we didn't settle."

And as other candidates are using the home stretch to rifle off their conservative credentials, Santorum is reminding Iowans of his. Endorsements from strong conservative leaders like Bob Vander Plaats, the head of The Family Leader, have helped him make his case. Though he spent today in eastern Iowa, a mostly Democratic area of the state, his campaign has plans to head to the very Republican western part of the state late in the week -- a move likely aimed to strengthen his already deep support in the area.

Santorum says he's confident voters who are looking for a strong conservative will turn to him.

"Some of the presidential candidates on the Republican side say this; they say, 'I believe that life begins at conception.' Ladies and gentleman, that is a concession.  That is a concession to the left; that is a concession to President Obama," Santorum said. Life beginning at conception is not a belief; it is a fact." 

"And so when we say, 'Well, I believe it,' then people think, 'Well, it's a particle of faith."

And though he does not have the money to run negative ads, the previously overlooked candidate has given a tongue-lashing to nearly every candidate, especially Paul, whose foreign policy he's called "incomprehensible."

He also called Gingrich "an inventor" who should not be in charge of the country. And he blasted Romney for running as a "liberal Republican" when challenging Sen. Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts.

The first candidate to visit all of the Hawkeye State's 99 counties said it is his long courtship with voters that is paying off. Despite not having as much as a campaign bus, he will continue to barnstorm through the state up until the caucus.

"We have a lot of work to do," Santorum said. "A lot of work."