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Rick Santorum wants to believe in miracles

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, January 8, 2012 9:55 EDT
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Rick Santorum speaks in Muscatine, Iowa
 
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He travels across New Hampshire in his black pick-up truck, surges in opinion polls and wants to believe in miracles.

Christian conservative candidate Rick Santorum hopes, aided by the grace of God, to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee facing Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

After his unexpected success in Iowa, where he was only eight votes behind the winner, super-rich and hyper-organized Mitt Romney, Santorum is now gathering the momentum needed to become an alternative to the frontrunner.

“Mr. Santorum, he’s wonderful,” says Bill Boyd, an advisor and fervent supporter of the former senator from Pennsylvania.

“We have the momentum and the enthusiasm. I am living a dream right now,” declares Boyd, pointing out that hundreds of people have attended Santorum rallies in recent days in New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday.

Such was the case Saturday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, where hundreds came to hear a Santorum stump speech — and his attacks against Romney.

“We don’t need a manager. Americans don’t want someone to manage Washington,” he said in a clear dig at Romney who made a fortune as a businessman.

“They want someone to fundamentally change Washington, and create a vision. We need someone who inspires us.”

Santorum, 53, is drawing on inspiration from his own dramatic rise in recent weeks, after months of a nearly invisible campaign.

Just a few weeks ago Santorum, a devout Catholic and paragon of traditional family values, had only one-percent support in this northeastern state where Republicans are traditionally more moderate than in other parts of the country.

But a new survey unveiled Friday by local television station WMUR and the University of New Hampshire saw him climb to eight percent, but still far behind Romney with 44-percent support and Texas congressman Ron Paul at 20 percent.

“Our goal is to be in the top three,” says Boyd of the New Hampshire vote. “I am cautiously optimistic.”

Looking ahead to the next primary, another poll has Santorum second in South Carolina, which votes on January 21.

In that southern state, where religion plays an important role, Santorum has risen to 19-percent support, a jump of 15 points in one month.

Romney, however, is leading in South Carolina with 37 percent support, according to the Time/CNN/ORC poll.

While seen as lacking in charisma, the former Massachusetts governor is beginning to rally the Republican establishment, and if Romney, 64, follows his win in Iowa with victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina, some political observers say he will certainly be the nominee to challenge Obama.

Santorum is fighting against that inevitability, and the very establishment which he sees as part of the problem.

“Every time we have run a candidate whose turn it was, it was from the establishment,” Santorum told reporters at St. Anselm, where the candidates square off later Saturday in a nationally televised debate.

“Washington doesn’t need someone who is just going to rearrange the deck chairs. We need someone who is going to make some real change, who has a record of being a strong conviction conservative who can lead this country and make the changes that are necessary for our economy and our national security.”

He also focused his criticism on Obama, denouncing the president’s “snobbery” and saying he “refuses to lead.”

Santorum lacks organization and funding, but his perseverance is turning heads.

On Friday he had to hold an impromptu rally in the parking lot of a restaurant because the room that had been reserved for the event turned out to be too small to accommodate all his fans and curious journalists.

But he is hardly perturbed by such hiccups or the heightened criticism that comes with his new visibility.

He was booed Thursday by students in Concord after he compared gay marriage to polygamy, and anti-Wall Street demonstrators showed up at one of his rallies on Friday to denounce excessive influence of money in politics after he refused to accept limits on campaign donations.

Yet voter Herbert Foote, who works in real estate and was in the audience at a Friday event, seemed to have been won over.

“I believe he believes, his family values inspire me,” Foote said.

But a woman in her fifties, who just gave her first name Cynthia, just smiled.

“It’s New Hampshire,” she said. “You listen to all the candidates, and you don’t make up your mind until next Tuesday.”

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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