Santorum braces to move beyond Iowa

AP News
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Posted: Jan 03, 2012 1:28 PM
Santorum braces to move beyond Iowa

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum told young voters, many set to cast their first votes Tuesday night, that they can ease the burden they will bear from the nation's debt by helping him to a strong finish in Iowa's caucuses.

"This is an important moment for our country," said Santorum, who, according to recent polls, had surged into third place behind Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in the first contest of the race to win the GOP presidential nomination.

He had joined other candidates at a Rock the Vote event in suburban Des Moines, one of a series of gatherings designed to spur high school students to get involved in the presidential campaign.

The event was sponsored in part by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who has endorsed Santorum and calls him the most consistent conservative in the field _ a point that Santorum hammers home on the campaign trail.

Young people could play an important role in Tuesday's caucuses. Those who will turn 18 by Election Day are eligible to participate. Asked how many planned to do so, about half the 800 students in the gymnasium raised their hands. Santorum urged them all to think long-term about the debt that is mounting under President Barack Obama.

"It will crush your pocketbook in the future," Santorum said. "Hold the candidates accountable to the intractable problem of exploding government."

Santorum spoke flanked by his wife and six of their seven children.

Heading into the caucuses, Santorum, now a top-tier contender, sounded increasingly confident and vowed to stay in the race beyond the first votes in the state-by-state process of choosing a Republican to challenge Obama next fall. Until several days ago, the former Pennsylvania senator had been trailing at the back of the GOP pack.

"I feel very good about where I am," he said. "We're going up. I feel very good about New Hampshire. They like this kind of politics, too." Santorum has devoted considerable time to campaigning in Iowa, going from door to door and from handshake to handshake as he has visited cities and towns large and small in each of the state's 99 counties.

"We're going to do very well tonight," Santorum predicted on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Ten days ago we were in last place in the polls and people asked me why I didn't get out," he said. Santorum said voters in Iowa are "looking for the candidate they can trust, and that's why we're moving up in the polls."

He acknowledged fundraising problems but said that a strong showing in Iowa should help significantly on that front. So far, Santorum said, "I'd say we've done this on shoestrings, but that would be insulting shoestrings."

Santorum said he's ready to move on aggressively to New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early voting states, saying "the biggest issue in this campaign is going to be the size and scale of government and the biggest signature issue is health care."