ALTOONA, Iowa — Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum told a packed crowd at Pizza Ranch this evening that he’s raised more money for his surging campaign in the last four or five days than he has in the past three to four months.


View Photo Gallery: Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum is seeking the Republican presidential nomination.

He acknowledged that his next fund-raising report will be embarrassing. But rising in the polls, a newly confident Santorum predicted he will do well not just in Iowa Tuesday, but in New Hampshire next week and South Carolina after that.

He noted that he has television ads running in New Hampshire and that his ad buy there will increase over the week, but he promised to keep running a tight and small campaign.

“We’re going to do our best to be lean and mean and set an example that you can win the presidency that way and you can govern the country that way,” he said. “We believe that’s the best approach. We’re going to go to New Hampshire. We’re going to campaign there nonstop.We think we can defeat them. Obviously, Gov. Romney’s been running for president for many, many years. But we think we can do well. And we think we can do very well in South Carolina.”

He also offered a particularly biting blow to rival Mitt Romney, who is leading in Iowa polls: He said Romney ran for office in Massachusetts as a liberal.

“Another candidate said today, ‘Oh, he’s unelectable. Oh, he can’t win,’ ” Santorum said of an attack on his own effort. “Well let me just say this. Show me any other candidate in this race who’s ever won a state that we have to win in order to win the presidency. None of them. We have three congressmen who represented heavily Republican districts. We have a Republican governor of Texas who ran as a conservative. How hard is that? In Texas? Again, not a swing state.”

“And then we have a governor of Massachusetts who ran as a liberal,” he said of Romney. “Both for the Senate, and lost. And for the governorship, and won. And didn’t run for reelection.”

After 380 town hall events, many of them attended by only a handful of voters, Santorum was greeted at the final event of his pre-caucus day schedule by the kind of elbow-to-elbow crowd of gawkers that has characterized his late rise. He was introduced by author Brad Thor, who said he drove from Chicago with his family to help Santorum in the final hours before the vote.

Santorum gave one stump speech in a stiflingly hot back room of the restaurant, standing atop a chair with a megaphone so he could be heard. He then made similar remarks in the main dining area, standing just off to the side of a steaming hot bar of wings and macaroni and cheese.

Noting the presence not just of American media, but the international press — a French television crew taped a segment as he spoke — Santorum asked the crowd to use their votes Tuesday to send a message.

“You can do what Iowans tend to do. You can ignore the pundit class. You can ignore the moderate Republicans, who say, oh we need a moderate. We’ve got to win, we’ve got to win. And Iowa will stand up and say, no. We need to be principled to win,” he said. “Send a message from the heartland. Do what Iowa does, which is to make sure a conservative is in the mix.”

And he also offered a harsh attack on President Obama for creating the divisive atmosphere in Washington that he himself decries. He promised that if elected, he won’t blame Obama for the nation’s problems.

“Let me promise you today, and I know there are people who will record it and keep me to it,’ he said. “I will do my level best, that once I am sworn in as president, that I will never say the words Barack Obama again, at least within the context of saying a problem that we’re dealing with is his fault.”

He offered few policy prescriptions in this closing argument, but forcefully said he would defend traditional conservative social values.

“The truth is the truth. Just because some people or most people in this country don’t believe the truth anymore doesn’t change it from being the truth,’’ he said, as a voter murmured amen. “If you’re looking for that kind of leadership, I think you should look our way.”

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