Heartened by Iowa Win, Santorum Calls Out Gingrich

Heartened by Iowa Win, Santorum Calls Out Gingrich

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - January 19, 2012

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. -- Fresh off a first-place finish in Iowa -- Republican officials in the Hawkeye State finally released a revised vote count Thursday -- Rick Santorum took aim at Newt Gingrich's social-conservative credentials, telling a crowd gathered at the Memorial Waterfront Park here that he alone is "the person that can beat Mitt Romney."

A little more than two weeks after the unofficial tally in Iowa put Romney a mere eight votes ahead of Santorum, the official results declared the former Pennsylvania senator the victor by 34 votes.

Santorum, at the rally hosted by the Family Research Council, called his triumph a "much stronger win than what Governor Romney claimed to have," and took the opportunity to shoot down Gingrich, who is also competing for the alternative-to-Romney label in the Palmetto State primary race. Courting the conservative vote, he implored South Carolinians to "look for core conviction" when they head to the polls on Saturday.

"Congressman Gingrich routinely puts these [family values] issues to the back of bus and sees them as controversial issues that need to be avoided. We know what kind of leader he will be when those tough issues come to the fore -- he will push them aside and focus on other things," the former Pennsylvania senator said. Both Santorum and Gingrich, who has surged in recent polls, appeared last night at a pro-life forum in Greenville.

A group of protesters disrupted Santorum’s rally on Thursday and were removed by park security officers after throwing glitter and chanting against the candidate’s positions on social issues.

Santorum's Iowa win came on a day marked by major political news in South Carolina: Rick Perry dropped out of the White House race and threw his support behind Gingrich at a late-morning press conference. Saying people can endorse whomever they want, Santorum noted that he enjoyed getting a chance to know Perry. "It's been a tough day and its been a tough process for them, and my heart and prayers go out to them," he said of the Texas governor and his team. Santorum commended Perry for "stepping up when you thought your country was calling on you to make a difference."

An encouraged Santorum pledged to go on to Florida, "where we know we will do even better." He will join his three remaining rivals tonight in Charleston for a debate sponsored by CNN. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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