By Brigitte Dusseau, AFP
MANCHESTER, New Hampshire — He travels across New Hampshire in his black pick-up truck, surges in opinion polls and wants to believe in miracles. Christian conservative candidate Rick Santorum hopes, aided by the grace of God, to become the Republican Party’s presidential nominee facing Democratic President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election.
After his unexpected success in Iowa, where he was only eight votes behind the winner, super-rich and hyper-organized Mitt Romney, Santorum is now gathering the momentum needed to become an alternative to the frontrunner. “Mr. Santorum, he’s wonderful,” says Bill Boyd, an advisor and fervent supporter of the former senator from Pennsylvania. “We have the momentum and the enthusiasm. I am living a dream right now,” declares Boyd, pointing out that hundreds of people have attended Santorum rallies in recent days in New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary on Tuesday. Such was the case Saturday at St. Anselm College in Manchester, where hundreds came to hear a Santorum stump speech — and his attacks against Romney. “We don’t need a manager. Americans don’t want someone to manage Washington,” he said in a clear dig at Romney who made a fortune as a businessman. “They want someone to fundamentally change Washington, and create a vision. We need someone who inspires us.” Santorum, 53, is drawing on inspiration from his own dramatic rise in recent weeks, after months of a nearly invisible campaign. Just a few weeks ago Santorum, a devout Catholic and paragon of traditional family values, had only one-percent support in this northeastern state where Republicans are traditionally more moderate than in other parts of the country. But a new survey unveiled Friday by local television station WMUR and the University of New Hampshire saw him climb to eight percent, but still far behind Romney with 44-percent support and Texas congressman Ron Paul at 20 percent. “Our goal is to be in the top three,” says Boyd of the New Hampshire vote. “I am cautiously optimistic.” Looking ahead to the next primary, another poll has Santorum second in South Carolina, which votes on Jan. 21, 2012. In that southern state, where religion plays an important role, Santorum has risen to 19-percent support, a jump of 15 points in one month.