Iowa Caucuses Hours Away, Santorum Rises in Polls

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NEWTON, Iowa -- The Iowa caucuses are set for Tuesday night as Americans finally head to the polls to begin the process of choosing Republican candidates for president.   

There are still plenty of undecided voters, but social conservative stalwart Rick Santorum, who's rising in the polls, is making the most noise right now.

"We believed we would be not the flavor of the month, but the people, when they had to actually decide who they were going to vote for that we would be the guy that they vote for," the former Pennsylvania senator said.

Santorum now finds himself in what looks to be a tight three-way race with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul -- pretty remarkable for a man who languished at the back of the pack during this race.
But a strong resume, solid debate performances and a consistent conservative message seem to have finally started to click with voters.

Santorum Attacks Begin
Santorum's previous low standing has also shielded him from being attacked by his opponents -- but that's changing.

Social conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who is courting the same type of voters, is going after him in a quest to slow down his momentum and recapture hers. On her campaign bus, she laid out the contrast.
"Rick Santorum is a big spending Republican. I'm not. Spending is a crucial issue in this race," she said.
"Plus, it's unfortunate, but Rick Santorum has backed Arlen Specter and endorsed other pro-abortion candidates, including candidates that support partial birth abortion," Bachmann added.

"Now Rick Santorum doesn't support abortion, but he's supported candidates who do," she noted.
It appears Bachmann, Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry could all split much of the social conservative vote.

That division leaves an opening for Romney, who isn't really courting social conservatives as much as mainstream independent-minded Republicans.

While he hasn't spent much time in Iowa, his message of economic competence and electability have resonated and have him poised for a big night.
As for Paul, he's the big wild card. His organization, devoted following, and libertarian message could pay huge dividends in Iowa.

Gingrich Popularity Slips

Meanwhile, because of the many negative campaign ads that targeted him, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich saw his poll numbers take a significant dip in Iowa this past week. But supporters like former Rep.  J.C. Watts, R-Okla., are not deterred.

"I think Newt Gingrich has a proven track record of changing Washington and getting results," Watts told CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I am one of the people that believe that Newt Gingrich creates, I think, the kind of Republican Party that I want," he said.
While voters in Iowa are still making up their minds, many say they'll decide based on electability.
"It's very important that we defeat Obama," Iowa voter Teresa Garman said. "That is my number one issue. We must defeat Obama."
Others are sticking to their core convictions, and the polls show Santorum is picking up lots of those voters.
"I need someone who will work with both parties to get the good things done and not compromise on the values," another Iowa voter said.
Caucus voters in Iowa tend to break late and they break hard, something Santorum is hoping to capitalize on. He's hopeful he'll be able to sway evangelicals to his side, taking away support from Bachmann and Perry on caucus night.