Santorum Picks Up Momentum In Michigan

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum gained two endorsements on Friday, including one from Ohio's attorney general who had previously supported Mitt Romney. Santorum and former Massachusetts governor Romney are campaigning in Michigan ahead of its Feb. 28 primary.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. The Republican presidential candidates are now focusing much of their time and resources on Michigan. It holds its primary in a week and a half. Mitt Romney may have been born and raised there, but he trails Rick Santorum in Michigan polls. And how has Santorum managed to pull ahead? He's done it with an understaffed, underfunded shoestring campaign, as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, from Shelby Township, Michigan.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The Santorum campaign does not have near the polish of the Romney machine. Security at this campaign event is a morass of volunteers trying to figure out who's doing what. Audio equipment is nonexistent and while the hours leading up to a Romney rally are an ant hill of organized campaign activity, good luck finding a staffer before a Santorum speech. Even his high-profile supporters are more low key.

Janice Daniels, mayor of Troy, Michigan, spoke without a microphone.

MAYOR JANICE DANIELS: If I had a key to the city, I would give one to you but the city budget is lower this year.

SHAPIRO: Yet, at least today, Santorum has one thing Romney does not - live Motown music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: He has live music and a lead in the polls. As one veteran reporter covering Santorum put it, the frontrunner in Michigan is running a last guy in Iowa campaign. And Santorum seems to relish it.

RICK SANTORUM: No structured events, no big distance between you and me, the opportunity for you to hear from me, but also for me to hear from you.

SHAPIRO: That's another contrast with a Romney event. Santorum takes questions almost every time. Romney rarely does. It's an unusual combination - the lead dog in Michigan who still acts like the underdog.

SANTORUM: Be that state, that state that stands up and turns away from big government and the snobbish elite who believe they know best for you.

SHAPIRO: This event for the Christian Conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition attracted a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,200 people. Santorum attacked President Obama by name and Romney by insinuation, asking the crowd, do you want someone with a record that contrasts with President Obama...

SANTORUM: Or do you want someone who can just manage Washington a little better?

SHAPIRO: Mike Cornwell(ph) stood in the back of the crowd applauding enthusiastically. He says he'd be okay if Romney wins the nomination, but Santorum has a passion and sincerity. Cornwell recently lost his house. His income is down 50 percent.

MIKE CORNWELL: Had to rent, which I guess now they're claiming is the new American dream, is renting instead of owning your home.

SHAPIRO: And is that a situation that you think Rick Santorum could fix as president?

CORNWELL: I think if he gets in and he - and we can keep the House and take the Senate, I think we've got a chance at least starting to reverse it.

SHAPIRO: If renting is the new American dream, then Santorum is pursuing an old American dream, the one that even the unlikeliest person could one day become president.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Shelby Township, Michigan.

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