Santorum Declares ’Game On’ After Iowa Surge
URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum declared that his strong Iowa showing means it’s "game on" for the party’s presidential nomination, and he’s heading to New Hampshire for round two.
"Thank you so much, Iowa, for standing up and not compromising, by standing up and being bold," Santorum told cheering backers heartened by his virtual photo-finish with rival Mitt Romney. "You have taken the first step toward taking back this country."
Supporters joined Santorum for a noisy victory celebration after tabulation of Tuesday night’s caucuses went into the early hours of Wednesday without a winner.
The Associated Press did not declare a winner, but Iowa Republican chairman Matt Strawn announced early Wednesday that Romney ended up with 30,015 votes to 30,007 for Santorum. Santorum’s camp was taking the showing as the moral equivalent of a win, because their support grew so fast in the last couple of weeks.
"This is a Cinderella story," said Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, the only statewide elected official to endorse Santorum. "Two weeks ago we were in last place."
Santorum’s surge was built on a traditional Iowa caucus campaign: showing up often, meeting as many activists as possible, and paying attention to the state where precinct caucuses launch the presidential nominating season.
"This has been an incredible journey - all 99 counties, 381 town hall meetings, 36 Pizza Ranches," Santorum said.
The former senator from Pennsylvania based his showing on strong backing from the evangelicals and social conservatives who play an important role in the state’s Republican politics. His victory speech reflected that sentiment.
"God has given us this great country to allow his people to be free," he said. "I offer a public thanks to God."
Santorum moved almost immediately to take advantage of his strong finish, firing out a fundraising appeal to deal with his most pressing problem, a lack of money.
"It’s now or never for conservative voters," his appeal said. "I am the only authentic, passionate conservative who can unite the GOP."