Posted on | December 27, 2011 | 14 Comments
You know you’re in Iowa when the big story of the day is how many pheasants the candidate killed:
Rick Santorum bagged at least four pheasants during his hunting trip Monday at Doc’s Hunt Club. Those four birds were just the “clean kills” that he was certain were the result of his own marksmanship — a conservative count, Santorum emphasized to the crowd of reporters who showed up at the hunting club in Adel, west of Des Moines.
While the former Pennsylvania senator was pleased with his outing, most of the reporters who showed up were more interested to know if Santorum had bagged even bigger game during this political season — the endorsement of his hunting companion, Iowa Rep. Steve King. But the conservative Republican congressman said he wasn’t quite ready to make that commitment.
“You know, I came here today to shoot some pheasants with my friend Rick Santorum and we’re having a great day,” King told the reporters assembled for Monday’s press conference. “So I’m going to deliberate on all of this and I’ve got a few days yet before a decision has to be made.… I’m leaving that open.” . . .
While King didn’t give Santorum his endorsement, yesterday’s hunting trip and press conference garnered the candidate a huge haul of publicity. Doc’s Hunt Club was crawling with reporters:
The bald guy in the dark coat is William Petroski of the Des Moines Register, who has been covering the Santorum campaign for weeks now. Petroski points out a useful bit of history:
An endorsement, or even a nod of approval from King, could be helpful to Santorum, who has been showing signs of gaining momentum.
In 2008, King endorsed Fred Thompson, who finished third among presidential candidates with 13.4 percent, narrowly ahead of fourth-place finisher U.S. Sen. John McCain, who went on to become the GOP presidential nominee. The first-place Iowa finisher four years ago was Mike Huckabee with Mitt Romney in second place.
University of Iowa political scientist Tim Hagle said that King’s Dec. 17, 2007, endorsement of Thompson was important to his candidacy.
“I have heard many times that the effort King put into the Thompson endorsement helped Thompson get to a third-place finish even though it was only just ahead of McCain,” Hagle said. While it is getting late in the 2012 caucus race, an endorsement of Santorum by King might help convince some that Santorum is the best bet among him, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann and Perry, he said.
Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford said that in a tight caucus race “even a feather on a scale” could make a difference.
The fact that 13% was good enough for third place in Iowa four years ago is important to keep in mind. The expectations game is everything in Iowa. Yesterday, toward the end of the press conference, after Santorum talked about how many pheasants he shot during his hunting trip, Dan Balz of the Washington Post asked, “Senator, you said you killed four, but how many did you expect to kill?”
Anyway, here’s video of the start of the press conference, where the talk was all about hunting and 20-gauge Weatherby shotguns: