Santorum: "I trusted the people of Iowa"

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum talks on the phone after a campaign stop Dec. 30, 2011, in Ames, Iowa. AP Photo

INDIANOLA, Iowa - Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is the man of the moment in Iowa, with preference polls showing him rising into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates.

(At left, watch Jan Crawford's piece on Santorum for the "CBS Evening News")

After spending more than 100 days campaigning in Iowa, more than any other Republican presidential candidate, and visiting all 99 of the Hawkeye State's counties, Santorum told me Saturday he always believed his message would break through.

Special Section: Election 2012
Candidate Page: Rick Santorum
Rick Santorum, Iowa's GOP man of the moment

I met up with Santorum after his campaign stop in Indianola, south of Des Moines, where he said his experience in government and in winning elections in a swing state like Pennsylvania would make him the strongest general election candidate in the GOP field.

Here's a partial transcript of our interview:

Jan Crawford: "Did you have this sense that it will all come together now?"

Rick Santorum: "That was the plan."

Crawford: "What was the plan?"

Santorum: "I said from the very beginning that we would continue to work hard and that when the people of Iowa would get down to the last couple of weeks, we felt we would do very, very well at that time, and that would be our surge. I kept telling folks who would ask, 'When's your surge coming? Your campaign is floundering, it's a failure,' I said, I am not going to get a surge from the media or from some glib comment in a debate, I'm gonna get it where I put my time, and that's in Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina. January 3rd was the day we were gonna get our surge, and hopefully to some degree that's gonna happen."

Crawford: "Do you think you can win Iowa?

Santorum: "We didn't come here to lose. I came here to win. I trusted the people of Iowa."

Crawford: "Did you ever feel like that this was just not going to work out?"

Santorum: "Never. I believe we brought something to the debate that was different. The reason I ran is 'cause I think people know there is more than just a little, narrow issue called jobs. Huge issue but there's more to being a president, and there's more to that issue that than just what your economic plan is. We feel good that the people of Iowa are gonna speak from a candidate who spent very little money in the state but a lot of time, and folks know what I believe in. And I think that's what they're looking for: Someone they can trust, someone who's authentic."

Crawford: "But can you beat Barack Obama?"

Santorum: "Name one person in this race who ran as a conservative and won a Democratic district for Congress. Name one person in the race who ran and won in a state that has more Democrats and Republicans in it. Those are the districts and the states we got to win to defeat Barack Obama, and no one else in this race has done it. That's what I always, I always scratched my head when suggested that the guy that can win (former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney) is the guy who ran as a liberal to win. He's never run as a conservative and won anything. Why would you think that he can attract votes from the communities that I grew up in?"

  • Jan Crawford On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Jan Crawford is CBS News Chief Political and Legal Correspondent. She is from "Crossroads," Alabama.

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