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No rest for Rick Santorum ahead of New Hampshire debates

January 07, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Rick Santorum speaks outside the Homestead Grocery and Deli during a campaign stop in Amherst, N.H.
Rick Santorum speaks outside the Homestead Grocery and Deli during a campaign… (Matt Rourke / Associated…)

Reporting from Hollis, N.H. — Most of the Republican presidential hopefuls had a light schedule Saturday, preparing for two nationally televised debates in a 14-hour span. Not Rick Santorum.

The former Pennsylvania senator had six stops on his schedule before Saturday's 9 p.m. debate at St. Anselm College, including one inside a barn in the southern New Hampshire town of Hollis.

"I'm doing debate prep with the people of New Hampshire," Santorum said.

It was another overflow venue for the suddenly surging candidate, who is riding the momentum of a neck-and-neck finish with Mitt Romney in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses. A show of hands before Santorum arrived indicated that many inside were from out of state, however. One questioner identified himself as a "political tourist."

A set of new polls in the past day each showed Santorum climbing in the Granite State, from low single digits before the Iowa vote to as high as 13% in an NBC News/Marist poll.

Romney is the overwhelming favorite here, and Ron Paul has seemed to solidify his hold on second place. Santorum, though, is pushing hard for a finish that would defy the expectations of those who said his brand of conservativism, a major draw among Iowa caucus participants -- was out of sync with New Hampshire.

Santorum noted that in the 1980 race for president, Iowa narrowly backed George H. W. Bush, but New Hampshire went with Ronald Reagan.

"Do we want someone who's going to go and campaign and say vote for me - I can win? Or do we need someone who says America stands for something? Here's my vision for the country."

One of the issues that has dogged Santorum during his many events this week is his opposition to gay marriage. One questioner -- one of those out-of-state visitors -- referred to a Romney ad about saving the "soul of America," and he asked the former senator whether he thought he a gay person's soul needed saving the most.

"I'm not into the salvation business. I have someone else I rely upon for that," Santorum responded.

He later said he would take questions only from those "with a New Hampshire drivers license."

michael.memoli@latimes.com
twitter.com/mikememoli

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