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Facing steep challenge, Santorum betting on Iowa Caucuses

In an interview with D.C. newspaper The Hill, Rick Santorum — a former Pennsylvania senator and possible contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — says based on the reception he’s received on his numerous visits to Iowa, he believes he could surprise everyone with a win in the first-in-the-nation caucuses.

The Hill depicts Santorum’s 2012 chances in Iowa’s caucuses as a dependent on which other socially conservative candidates enter the race, such as U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee. Santorum did participate in the statewide Judge Bus tour, supporting the effort to oust three Supreme Court justices over their 2009 same-sex marriage ruling, and aligning himself with Republican candidate-turned-conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats.

Overall, Santorum has visited Iowa more than any other potential Republican candidate. He said in the profile piece, “Everything I’ve learned about presidential politics is that you have to do better than they think you’re gonna do. If you beat expectations, you go to the next place on the game board. I can tell you, I wouldn’t still be doing this if I wasn’t encouraged by the reception we’ve been getting.”

So the Republican from Pennsylvania, who lost his reelection in 2006, is banking on surprising people as an underdog.

From The Hill:

… He faces a crop of candidates who are better-known and likely to have deep fundraising pockets, and who will command much more press attention.

“It’s been the same in every single race I’ve ever run,” said a smiling Santorum, noting with satisfaction that he won his House race two decades ago in what turned out to be one of the biggest upsets of the cycle. “People underestimate me. Can’t say it’s ever bothered me, though.”

Although Santorum backed Mitt Romney in 2008, he told the Hill, given the resemblance between Romney’s Massachusetts health care reform and the national Democratic reform in 2010, Santorum doubts Romney stands much of a chance in 2012.

Santorum is low in the polls, only holding 3 percent in polling for likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters, right behind former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s 4 percent.

He lost his re-election in 2006, 59 to 41, to Bob Casey Jr., son of a popular former Pennsylvania governor. Santorum has little interest in a rematch for the Senate seat, but polling indicates he would be Casey’s strongest challenger.

As far as the former Senator’s chances in a presidential race against Obama, he currently only has a 38 percent favorable rating in his home state. Obama leads all possible challengers in Pennsylvania. Santorum gets 11 percent in Pennsylvania, landing 5th place among possible 2012 contenders.

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