Santorum downplays need to win, wants to beat Bachmann, Perry

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Rick Santorum is surging in the polls in Iowa with two days to go until the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. On Sunday morning on "Meet the Press," he said he feels good about his position in the state, but sought to quash the idea that he needs to finish in first.

When asked whether he needs to win to exceed expectations, Santorum laughed. 

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"Ten days ago I was at 5 percent [in the polls] and every question I got was 'Why don't you pack it up and endorse another candidate?'" he said. "And now they're saying 'You've got to win to exceed expectations.'"

"We're going to have a big jump here in Iowa," he said later. "I don't know what it's going to be."

Santorum trails Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, according to the results of the final Des Moines Register poll of likely caucus-goers, but the pollster saw a tremendous amount of momentum building for Santorum in the poll's data.

If only the last two days of the polling period are considered, Santorum jumps into second place behind only Romney.

Santorum said that his main goal was to win the "conservative primary" between him, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. 

"I've said that from the beginning, if we can pace ahead of perry and/or bachmann we'll be in good shape, and we're moving towards that right now," he said.


In the Register poll, Perry earned 11 percent support and Bachmann was in last place with 7 percent.

He was also asked about his 2008 endorsement of Mitt Romney, and sought to explain it away as an endorsement against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), pointing out that his endorsement didn't come until the field was down to the two candidates and occurred right before Super Tuesday. But former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), who Santorum praised during the interview, was still in the race at that time.

Bachmann and Newt Gingrich have faded quickly in the polls, but Perry's numbers have held relatively steady during that period. He has been on the war path against Santorum, slamming him for supporting earmarks while in Congress.

Santorum pushed back hard when asked about Perry's attacks, pointing out that Perry's administration had sought earmarks in Washington. "Rick Perry was hiring lobbists to fleece Americans, then," he responded.