Santorum endorses underdog for Iowa Senate

Greg Nash

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) has endorsed former conservative radio host Sam Clovis's (R) Senate campaign, putting him at odds with a bevy of Republicans that have backed front-running Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R) in recent weeks.

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"I am proud to endorse my friend Sam Clovis for the United States Senate. I had the pleasure of getting to know Sam during my run for president and was blessed by his support along the campaign trail. I know what is in his heart and Sam is a true, full-spectrum conservative," Santorum said in a statement.

Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa presidential Republican caucuses, is considering another run for president in 2016. The endorsement may be as much about 2016 and loyalty from 2012 as involvement in 2014. Santorum and Clovis share a top adviser, Mike Biundo, and Clovis backed Santorum in 2012.

The former presidential candidate had initially said he wouldn't endorse in this race, but says he feels "compelled" to get involved because of meddling from Washington politicians and groups.

"So-called conservative groups in Washington, D.C. have tried to anoint a candidate. Unfortunately, these same groups either don't know the real record, or they are trying to mislead Iowa conservatives about who is the best conservative in this race," he said, taking a shot at those backing Ernst.

That list includes former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and the Senate Conservatives Fund. On Tuesday, Ernst netted endorsements both from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Rifle Association. 

Ernst has surged ahead in recent public polling.

Clovis has struggled with fundraising and his best hope to win the nomination is if no candidate wins 35 percent in the four-candidate race, which would send the nomination process to a party convention. Businessman Mark Jacobs (R) and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker (R) are also in the race.

Clovis also won the endorsement of powerful Iowa social conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats (R) earlier this week. Vander Plaats's late endorsement of Santorum helped lead him to a win in Iowa in 2012, and his support for then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) helped him to a win in 2008. 

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