Santorum says he’s ‘being pulled’ into 2012 race

Holly Bailey
The Upshot

Rick Santorum is barely a blip in polls gauging the 2012 Republican presidential field. Still, the former GOP senator from Pennsylvania tells the Des Moines Register that he feels like he's "being pulled" into the race, as he actively plots a White House run.

"I sort of feel in some respects I'm being pulled along in this," Santorum tells the Register's Tom Beaumont. "I'm still seriously going through this process. And at this point I'm very encouraged by everything that's happening."

Santorum is on a three-day swing in Iowa this week, where he's spent the past few days meeting with GOP candidates and activists around the state. He also made his first pilgrimage to the state fair — a political rite of passage for any serious presidential candidate. He says the response to his potential run has been "surprisingly positive."

"There seems to be support on the ground at least to consider this," Santorum said.

But it's one thing to be nice to a candidate who shows up and another to give that candidate your vote.  A poll of likely Iowa GOP voters released earlier this week by the Iowa Republican Party and the Concordia Group found Santorum garnering less than 1 percent support in the state. That's not exactly an encouraging sign, since Santorum has visited Iowa four times in the past year — more than any other prospective GOP candidate.

That's not to say the former Pennsylvania senator can't turn things around. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee was a virtual unknown in the state before he went on to win the GOP caucus in 2008. But Santorum, who lost his bid for re-election in 2006, is trying to bill himself as the true social conservative in the race — a position Huckabee, who currently leads prospective polls in the state, has already staked out.

(Photo of Santorum by Gerald Herbert/AP)