- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2011

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum predicted Sunday that conservatives who have fueled rival Newt Gingrich’s rise to the top of the GOP presidential field will rethink their support once they learn more about the former House speaker’s record.

“Newt’s done well at the debates. I think that’s been his forte. His forte is glib, and there’s no question about it,” Mr. Santorum said. “Newt is full of ideas and has a professor-teacher mentality, if you will, an ability, and I think he’s connecting with the audiences out there.

“He’s a great teacher. That’s what he is,” Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He’s a very bright man who has a lot of ideas. The question is, can you stay focused on those ideas, can you execute those ideas, and can you motivate the American public?”

But Mr. Gingrich, who is topping the GOP field in several key states, has a mixed record, Mr. Santorum said, on issues important to conservatives, including climate change and health care.

“People are also going to look at his leadership ability and look at his record and whether what he says he’s going to do is what he did when he had the opportunity to do it,” he said. “I think that’s where people start focusing a lot more on those details; I think that’s where we’re going to rise.”

Mr. Santorum, who has been mired at the back of the GOP pack in national polls, contrasted Mr. Gingrich’s contentious tenure on Capitol Hill as a member of the House in the 1990s with his own time in the Senate, when he became what he called the “go-to guy” for conservative issues.

“It’s still early. There’s three weeks left even before Iowa,” Mr. Santorum said. “A lot of information is yet to disseminate out, and I think as it continues to get out there and settle in people’s minds, they’re going to see a very different record.”

Mr. Santorum, among the most socially conservative of all the candidates in the GOP field, is hoping - like Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota [-] that religious-right voters in Iowa will rescue a struggling campaign in next month’s caucuses.

In Sunday’s interview, Mr. Santorum also took aim at the Obama administration’s foreign policy, which he dismissed again as “appeasement.”

President Obama responded to that charge last week at a press conference, challenging critics such as Mr. Santorum to “ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement.”

But Mr. Santorum wasn’t backing down Sunday: “It’s a very accurate word. He has done nothing but appease the Iranians to say that he will negotiate - in fact did negotiate