Rick Santorum campaigns in Hamlin, Iowa, chatting over a tenderloin sandwich at Darrell's Place.  Peggy Toft, to Santorum's right, was the only Iowan to stop by at first. (Josh Hafner/The Des Moines Register)

What a difference four years makes.

In the 2012 presidential campaign, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum was king of Iowa -- or at least the guy who won it and put in the work to do so. He traveled to all 99 counties with his family and surprised everyone by winning the state's caucuses by 34 votes.

This week, the 2016 candidate ate lunch practically alone in an Iowa grill. The Des Moines Register reported that Santorum stopped by Darrell's Place in Hamlin, Iowa, for a pre-scheduled 2 p.m. campaign event. Only one person showed up to greet him:

When just one Iowan showed up to Rick Santorum's 2 p.m. campaign stop at a restaurant here Monday, the winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses made a quick decision: Might as well order lunch.

"I haven't eaten, actually, all day," he said to his guest, Peggy Toft, an insurance agent and chair of the county's Republican Party.

A local photographer, who also worked at the restaurant part time, told Santorum he should order the rhubarb pie.

Santorum took the advice of his one guest and ordered the restaurant's signature dish, breaded tenderloin and onion rings.

His food came and, the Register says, three more Iowans entered the restaurant and stopped by Santorum's table. He posed for photos.

Santorum filled a void in 2012 as the social/religious conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, but this year, there are plenty of other candidates in that lane. Most polls these days don't have Santorum climbing above the low single digits, including among the most conservative voters.


A Fox News poll of likely GOP voters doesn't have Santorum in the top four among Tea Party voters. (The Washington Post)

Still, Santorum has come from behind before. And at least he thought Monday went pretty well.

Again, from the Register:

Later, after posing for a couple of photos and shaking hands, Santorum stood outside the diner and called the event a success.

"People don't understand. One guy in there said, 'I'll speak for you at the caucus,'" Santorum said. "That's maybe eight votes that you wouldn't otherwise get. Eight votes can make a big difference, as I know."

His next event in Carroll, Iowa, wasn't populous either, per a photo from CNN's Betsy Klein.

Let nobody say that running for president is glamorous -- even for guys who actually win.