- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rick Santorum stumped in Sioux City, Iowa, on Sunday afternoon, striking the tone of a front-runner candidate anxious to take on President Obama after a Saturday poll indicated he could be closing in on second place.

As Mr. Santorum spoke at the Daily Grind coffeehouse, a live CNN feed played on a mounted television across from where he stood — a reminder of his new place among the top-tier candidates after surging in the polls last week.

“I’m just glad this isn’t on national television,” Sioux City pastor Cary Gordon joked after tearing up while introducing Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania. “How many people cry when they introduce you, Sen. Santorum?”

In a speech where he targeted the president more than any of his GOP caucus rivals, Mr. Santorum spoke glowingly of Iowa voters, asking them to “stand up for your honor” and “do your duty,” and reminding them that the stop was his 372nd town-hall meeting in Iowa.

After months spent crisscrossing the state in his Dodge Ram pickup truck in an effort to energize a flagging campaign, Mr. Santorum’s gratitude to Iowans for their support was palpable.

A Des Moines Register poll released Saturday showed Mr. Santorum with 15 percent support, behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, but the past two days of polling indicated that he had overtaken Mr. Paul for second place.

“We kept hearing from people that well, Rick, we like you, but we’re not sure you can win because the pundits say you can’t win and the national polls have you behind,” Mr. Santorum said. “And then folks started stepping forward, people stepped forward and said, you know what, take a look at this guy.”

“This is what I sort of held out for. You’re doing the job of Iowa: You fight to be first because you take this responsibility seriously.”

Speaking for nearly an hour, Mr. Santorum likened Mr. Paul’s noninterventionist views to Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy record, telling voters that a Paul presidency would be more of the same.

But he mainly aimed his attacks at Mr. Obama, building on his most recent TV ad, which paints him as the only candidate who can beat the president.

Accusing Mr. Obama of crushing businesses, expanding the welfare state and alienating American allies, he asked those gathered to “fight for freedom” over the next two days.

“Go out to those caucuses and send a message to this country and to the world, because they are watching,” he said. “If you do that, and you go to bed that night, you will have done your job and fought for freedom.”

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