Former Senator Rick Santorum addressed his 380th town hall style meeting on the campaign trail in Iowa at the Pizza Ranch in Altoona on Monday night and thanked Iowans for giving his campaign a last minute look and a boost in the polls. Mr. Santorum has visited all 99 counties of Iowa in the last year and move his large family to the state to help him on the campaign trail.
“We haven’t speed dated through Iowa. We’ve taken our time. This has been a real courtship,” said Mr. Santorum to supporters in a packed room, while taking a swipe at his opponents like Texas Governor Rick Perry, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who have gone through last minute multi-city bus tours through the entire state in the last two weeks.
Some have speculated that Rep. Bachmann could give Mr. Santorum (the new anti-Romney candidate) problems in the future, if she ends up solely attacking him and barely attacking the current front runner of the GOP presidential primary, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Such an event could cause the conservative vote to split further between Bachmann and Santorum.
I asked Senator Santorum if he was concerned this kind of scenario, which came to life back in 2008 when former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee effectively played defense for the eventual GOP nominee Arizona Senator John McCain.
“Michele is doing what she is supposed to do. She’s been out there running a hard race and trying to win and that’s what she should be doing,” Santorum said. “Michele doesn’t get used. Michele is a very strong person and she’s going out and trying to do the best she can to help win this race because of the things she cares about.”
“I think each candidate is on their own. Certainly, Michele Bachmann is a serious candidate and we view her as a serious competitor but each candidate stands on their own,” Romney spokesman Eric Ferstrom told me on Monday night in Des Moines.
Fernstrom disagreed that Bachmann could play defense for his candidate like Mr. Huckabee did for Mr. McCain four years ago.
“Oh no. I don’t think so. Everybody running wants to do well tomorrow in the caucus. And then go on to New Hampshire and do well there. Its a good field of candidates. As Mitt Romney has said before, any one of them would be a better president than the incumbent,” he said.
In the meantime, according to reports from West Des Moines on Monday night, Bachmann had this to say in her final arguments to Iowa voters about Senator Santorum:
“If you look at Rick Santorum he’s a wonderful guy, as all the candidates are, but there are points of clarity between us. I’m a limited government, fiscal conservative. Rick Santorum voted for the ‘Bridge to Nowhere,’ he defends the practice of earmarks, and I’ve taken a no earmarks pledge,” she said.
Bachmann added, “He also supported Arlen Specter and endorsed him. Arlen Specter gave us the 60th vote that gave us Obamacare, and taxpayer-funded abortion. I never would have supported Arlen Specter, a pro-abortion candidate. There are differences between us.”