On The Road

December 27th, 2011
 

Santorum Goes Hunting for the Huckabee Vote

Rick Santorum wants Iowans to give him a late Christmas present. Particularly, he would like the state’s conservative voters to coalesce around him they way they did for Mike Huckabee four years ago. Santorum is not even necessarily asking for an Iowa Caucus victory. He wants to win one of what he described as “three primaries” going on in the state right now.

“There’s the libertarian primary, which Ron Paul’s going to win,” Santorum said. “Then you’ve got the moderate primary, which Gingrich and Romney are scrumming for. And you’ve got three folks who are running as strong conservatives. I think if we win that primary, we’re in pretty good shape.”

Eight days before the first votes are cast, only one presidential candidate spent the day in Iowa. Rick Santorum, accompanied by Congressman Steve King, went pheasant hunting in Adel. As the other presidential candidates took the day off, Santorum had representatives from Japanese television, the LA Times, NY Times, Boston Globe, ABC, NBC, Fox News and local media descending on a private hunting club to cover him.

The optics worked out perfectly for the Santorum campaign. Bedecked in a hunting outfit and NRA cap, he was accompanied by Iowa’s most conservative elected official. Santorum used the photo op to appeal to Iowa’s large community of hunters and gun owners, much in the way Mike Huckabee did four years ago.

“There’s nobody that’s done more for the second amendment and been stronger on that issue than I have. We have an A-plus rating from the NRA,” Santorum said. “It’s not just protecting gun owners’ rights from the standpoint of hunting, but it’s very important to protect the rights of individuals to own guns as an individual right, for their own protection and safety. That’s a very important part of our constitutional rights.”

Polk County GOP Co-Chair Dave Funk helped organize the hunt. Funk was a leader in the  Sportsmen for McCain coalition four years ago and says there is great political benefit for the candidates to promote their pro-gun beliefs.

“Brilliant idea. You think back four years ago, the Sunday before the caucuses, the photo of Huckabee on the cover of the Des Moines Register,” Funk said. “I would argue that made a huge difference for him on caucus night. This year, clearly the two Ricks (Santorum and Perry) are the go to guys on this issue.” Funk added that the pro-gun vote is “split between the two right now, but clearly these last minute photos are helpful”.

This is the second time in the past few months that Santorum, Funk and Congressman King have gone pheasant hunting together in Iowa. “He’s pretty good,” Funk said of Rick Santorum. “He’s an 80 percent bird shooter.”

Santorum estimated that he got four clean kills and several group kills throughout the day. However, the former Pennsylvania senator got more enjoyment sharing the outing with his son, John. “There’s only one thing better than getting a bird, and that’s watching your son, in his first hunt, get a bird and he had a lot of good shots today. We had a lot of fun.”

As for Congressman King, his highly coveted endorsement remains elusive. However, the fact that he would do a public event with a candidate this close to the Iowa Caucus might signal which way he might vote next Tuesday, even if he does not publicly declare his support.

“I’m going to deliberate on this a few days before I make a decision,” King said. “I want my head and my heart to come together and when that happens and if that happens, I’ll jump in with both feet and I hope it’s not after the ship’s already left, but it could be.”

Others on today’s hunting trip included Kevin Reynolds, the husband of Iowa’s lieutenant governor, and former congressional candidate Jim Gibbons, who has endorsed Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator is one of several presidential candidates who will be on the Iowa campaign trail on Tuesday.

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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