Strong Finish In Iowa Boosts Santorum Campaign

Rick Santorum finished just eight votes behind Iowa winner Mitt Romney Tuesday night. An underdog in money, organization and national experience, Santorum relied on his own perseverance — and the downfalls of a series of anybody-but-Romney candidates that left him the last one standing.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. The day after the Iowa caucuses, the Republican primary field has narrowed. Last night saw Mitt Romney eek out an eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum. And this morning, Michele Bachmann, who finished sixth, announced she was quitting the campaign. Now, the remaining candidates trade the frigid cornfields of Iowa for the frigid hills of New Hampshire.

SIEGEL: We're going to spend the next few minutes focusing on Rick Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator managed a remarkable turnaround last night. Not long ago, he was languishing in the polls, a political afterthought. He's now campaigning in New Hampshire, racing to introduce himself to voters there. NPR's Brian Naylor has our story from Manchester.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Tyler Carlisle is having a busy day at Rick Santorum's New Hampshire state headquarters. In between greeting newly converted supporters who want to help out...

TYLER CARLISLE: Hello, sir.

Hi, I'm Tyler. How can I help you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I'm looking to join.

CARLISLE: Well, that's great. I'm looking to get you to join.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: All right.

NAYLOR: He also recorded a message for volunteers.

CARLISLE: Hi, my name is Tyler. I'm calling from Rick Santorum's campaign to let you know that Senator Santorum's town hall on Friday has been moved to the Windham High School due to large attendance.

NAYLOR: It's a pretty good problem to have - having to move your event to a larger venue - and it's where Rick Santorum's campaign finds itself after his surge from the lowest ranks of the opinion polls' pre-Iowa caucus to missing a victory there by just a whisker. Santorum's New Hampshire media coordinator, Bill Cahill, also found himself a popular guy today, as reporters lined up for interviews. He says all the welcome attention has also meant something more tangible.

BILL CAHILL: We've had dozens of people walk through the door today; just say, we're - can I drop off a check? That never happened here before last week. So that's the kind of thing that's sort of symptomatic of what's going on.

NAYLOR: Cahill attributes a lot of the newfound interest in Santorum not just to his strong finish in Iowa but to his speech last night, which Cahill calls the most important 15 minutes of the campaign so far. Those who stayed up late enough heard Santorum touch on some traditional Republican themes, like small government and low taxes.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RICK SANTORUM: I believe in cutting taxes. I believe in balancing budgets. I propose cutting $5 trillion from this budget over the next five years. I support a balanced budget amendment that puts a cap at 18 percent of GDP as a guarantee of freedom for this country.

NAYLOR: But Santorum, as he has throughout his campaign, also spoke with fervor about his faith and his family.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SANTORUM: These are the basic values that Americans stand for, and those are the values that we need if we're going to go up against Barack Obama and win this election, and restore the founding principles of our country to America.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

NAYLOR: Santorum, who's Catholic, has been a longtime favorite of social conservatives and evangelical voters. He spent two terms in the House, and two terms in the Senate. While there, he helped write the welfare reform legislation that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996. He's staunchly anti-abortion, including in cases involving rape and incest. He co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to bar certain abortions late in pregnancy. And an opponent of same-sex marriage, he co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to ban it.

While those views won him support from evangelicals in Iowa, it remains to be seen how they'll go over in less socially conservative New Hampshire. His campaign believes his family focus appeals to all voters and most importantly, they say, Santorum is now in the game.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Manchester.

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