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Santorum Pulls on Connections for Last-Minute Surge

Citadel Republicans bestow patriot award to Rick Santorum.

THE CITADEL — Calling The Citadel's sway mafia-like and thanking cadets for serving on his Iowa and South Carolina campaign, Rick Santorum said he's finally feeling that energy in the Palmetto state.

He admitted that the week didn't start out with the energy and feeling he wanted from the grassroots campaign he's been running, which boasts more stops and more talks at small events than any other candidate. 

"I didn't feel like we were surging," he told the crowd gathered for the state's largest Republican club's annual fundraiser. But he's feeling it now.

A campaign staff member said polling of voters Friday showed positive gains, and calling confirmed rival Newt Gingrich voters showed that 10 percent were changing their vote. 

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Talking to the same crowd that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said was where politicians go to get elected, Santorum was well-received, and given the event's crowning achievement: the Patriot Award.

It was a first for the military college of Charleston's Citadel Republican Society — hosting a presidential candidate and bestowing the award to a presidential candidate. The Citadel is known for its strong cohesion among its alumni and students.

The former Pennsylvania senator traveled the state Friday, counting down to the primary and coming off of a strong debate performance Thursday. He ended the evening at The Citadel Alumni hall for the CRS Patriot Dinner fundraiser, where all of the GOP candidates were invited.

According to organizers, the fundraiser is usually held in the fall but it was postponed until now so they could capitalize on the big names rolling through the Palmetto state. While the club's been in existence in the 1840s, its dinner began only three years ago.

Two years ago candidate Nikki Haley addressed diners. 

Now as governor, though endorser of a candidate who did not appear Friday, she said the dinner was crucial to selecting political candidates in the state.

"To get elected you visit The Citadel Republicans," she said in a video statement airing during the dinner.

About 170 people attended Friday's event, which was the second time Santorum attended. He also attended the previous year as a speaker.

The Patriot Award has been previously awarded to Congressman Gresham Barrett. 

Barrett, a Citadel alumni, was on hand to present the award to Santorum.

"Let's elect Rick Santorum," he told the audience. 

Barrett unsuccessfully ran a campaign against Haley in 2010. Haley has endorsed Romney.

While most of the candidates have visited the military college, Santorum is the only one to address the club, whose members have volunteered the campaign trail for his rivals. But many cadets have volunteered on the Santorum campaign, here and in Iowa.

The cadet to receive the club's Henry E. Brown Jr. Republican Workhorse Award put in 3,000 campaign phone calls for Santorum. 

Santorum credits the volunteers at The Citadel for helping him have a strong showing at the Iowa strawpoll, which fed into his narrow win in Iowa during the caucus. 

"This guy may not be a Citadel grad but he's got it," Barrett said of that special something Citadel grads possess. "Leadership, yes, but more than that: a heart for this nation, a heart for its people and a heart to take us back to our greatness."

Taking the lectern, Santorum noted the strong bond among the alumni.

"It's the mafia," he joked. 

The night before the primary, Santorum borrowed an analogy he heard on a news program, that South Carolina was Goldilocks and she had the choice of three porridges. He didn't acknowledge rival Ron Paul in the analogy. 

"We're down to three people on that stage that could be the nominee of our party," he said.

He alluded to Romney as "a little cool, just a little timid" and lacking that "boldness and spice." 

"(Voters are) not looking for the person with the most money, they're looking for the person to help them make the most money," Santorum said. 

Santorum then focused on another choice facing Goldilocks.

"And then you've got someone who's a little to hot," he said to chuckles from the crowd. "It's a record that's just all over the place and one that, well, you just have to be concerned about … The ideas are plentiful but do you have the discipline to go out and be steady?"

Of course, Santorum was the porridge that was "just right" in the metaphor.

"Not someone who is right, but just right," he said to applause.

Santorum will return to The Citadel Saturday to await the primary results, starting at 6:30 p.m.

windwardtack January 21, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Kind of odd he didn't mention Ron Paul since he is behind him in the poll averages.

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