Santorum campaigns in Davenport, says conservative leaders are settling

Former Pennsylvania senator believes Iowans won't follow leaders

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By Ed Tibbetts, Quad-City Times

DAVENPORT — In the 2016 Republican presidential race, Ted Cruz is winning the blessings of social conservatives who just four years ago found favor with Rick Santorum.

So, as Santorum embarked Tuesday on a two-day campaign swing through Iowa, the former Pennsylvania senator and winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses is seeking to undercut Cruz’s conservative credentials on same sex marriage — and, in the process, questioning the people who have endorsed Cruz.

In an interview in Davenport, Santorum said conservative leaders are either walking away from the marriage issue or settling on a candidate because they think he can win.

“I think it’s pretty clear that maybe they’re abandoning the position because it’s not tenable anymore. Which I certainly don’t feel that way, but maybe they do,” Santorum said. “Or they’ve decided that it’s more important to win and get less of what you want and be willing to settle for less.”

This year, Santorum is banking on the idea that rank-and-file Iowa conservatives won’t follow the leaders.

“I don’t think necessarily Iowans are there. I think that’s where obviously the conservative leadership has gone,” he said. “And I think that’s the problem. You see this all the time. You see it in Washington, where conservative leaders in Congress walk away from their base in the attempt to win. Because they think it’s more important to win. I don’t know how many times that the very people who complain about Washington doing that are now doing that — and saying, ‘but we have to win.’”

Santorum traveled through Davenport on his way to a stop in the Des Moines area on Tuesday. On Wednesday, he is heading to western Iowa for a series of campaign events.

Cruz’s campaign responded that nobody is more pro-traditional marriage than he is and that he’s been consistent on the issue.

“He has also consistently defended the Constitution and the right of states to determine their own marriage laws, instead of same-sex marriage being forced upon all 50 states by unelected, activist judges,” the campaign said.

Santorum won Iowa on a late surge in 2012, and one of the endorsements he received, just two weeks before the caucuses, was from Family Leader chief executive Bob Vander Plaats, who this year is backing Cruz.

Santorum said Tuesday the endorsements he got then helped, but only to a point.

“The fact that we got some endorsements right at the end, you know, I think that helped a little bit,” he said. “But we were on the way up, we were on the way up before those endorsements happened.”

Now, Santorum is trailing even John Kasich in Iowa, according to the RealClearPolitics.com polling average. Still, he said the key is to keep working hard. And he said he’ll do that over the next five weeks.

“My feeling is, just go out and work it,” he said.

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