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Santorum spars with Sharpton on MSNBC

Sharpton, a Democrat and long-time champion of liberal causes, joked that their on-air debate would actually lead to an increase in Santorum's support and momentum in Iowa.

"I can argue with you about some of your ugly statements on the president and all of that, but that would probably help you in the primarily if you and I got in an argument this morning," said Sharpton before asking his question.

"Go head, Al. Give it to me, Al," responded Santorum, laughing.

"Well, you said some despicable and ugly things, but we'll do that on 'Politics Nation' one night, don't let me help you win the caucus," added Sharpton, referring to his own TV show.

Santorum argued that his experience with national security issues and his record in Pennsylvania would allow him to better serve the country than Obama. He also took a shot at Obama's experience level before being elected to the presidency.

"I didn't serve two years in the United States Senate before I ran for president, I served 12 years," Santorum said.

The former Pennsylvania senator jumped to third place in a poll of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers released Wednesday by ORC International for CNN and Time magazine.

Mitt Romney came in on top, with 25 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) took second with 22 percent. Santorum, who has trailed in the polls of the GOP field for most of the year, took 16 percent — a surge that comes less than a week from the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.

Santorum said he believes the recent surge in Iowa is due to his conservative message as well as thorough vetting by the media and constituents in past federal elections.

"I've been scrubbed and scoured and people know if there's anything out there it's out there," he said.

Santorum touted his conservative values and marriage to one woman as reasons why voters are gravitating to his campaign.

"There's no surprises. You know I've got a strong consistent, conservative record … married one time, seven children," he said.

His marriage comment could be meant as a dig to former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is on his third marriage and has been surpassed in the latest Iowa poll by Santorum.

Santorum joked that he leads a boring life, except for his large family.

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