Rick Santorum: Back of the pack not a bad place to be

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum on CBS' "Early Show," July 5, 2011. CBS

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, who is trailing in all primary polls so far, contended on Monday that being an underdog would help him in early primary states.

"We think being at the back of the pack is not a bad place to be in Iowa," Santorum told CBS News' Erica Hill in an appearance on "The Early Show."

Santorum, a former two-term Pennsylvania senator who lost his bid for re-election by a wide margin in 2006, is largely considered a long-shot candidate. But he is now relishing that characterization, painting himself the come-from-behind candidate.

"Working hard is what you need to do" to succeed in the caucus states like Iowa, Santorum argued.

Referring to a recent CBS News poll, in which two-thirds of Republican voters said there wasn't a single candidate in the presidential field with whom they would be happy, Santorum said he was "not disappointed by that number" - because he was so little-known among voters that he probably didn't even figure into their consideration.

"As someone who's sitting at the back of the pack, and probably has the lowest name recognition; they're probably not talking about me," he said. Arguing that voters were, in the poll, probably referring to the "folks who are seen as the leaders," Santorum concluded that the results were actually positive for him.

"That's a good thing as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I think that's an opportunity."

Santorum also brushed off the idea that Michele Bachmann - like Santorum, a strong social conservative - was stealing his thunder on the far right, and implied that the Minnesota congresswoman was just enjoying temporary surge of popularity.

"I understand the buzz around some of these candidates, whether it was Herman Cain early on, now Michele Bachmann, before that Donald Trump," Santorum said. "I'm just out here working hard. I'm meeting people at diners and in their living rooms, folks in Iowa and New Hampshire in particular. They want to meet the candidates, they want to kick the tires, they want to ask you questions."

Santorum argued that voters in Iowa cared more about their interactions with a candidate than polling numbers.

"Iowa, it's a caucus state. The folks who're gonna come out are the folks who have really looked at these candidates and studied hard," he said. "Not who Washington or New York says who's the favorite."

The former senator also called for a "short-term and long-term solution" for the debt ceiling, arguing that Congress should "come together on spending reductions" and then, for the long-term, pursue a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.

"The real issue here is that we need - and, I served in the Senate, I know how it works - you need a backstop," Santorum argued. "You need something that forces members of Congress to do what they know they have to do but there's no political will to support it."

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App