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Jasper County chooses Rick Santorum

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 12:01 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012 12:03 p.m. CDT

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the Jasper County Republican caucus by a sizable margin Tuesday evening, pacing the field with 35 percent of the vote after all the ballots finally were tallied. Ron Paul and Mitt Romney trailed with roughly 18 percent of the vote each.

With all 21 Jasper County precincts reporting, Santorum bested his competitors with 576 votes, followed by Paul with 300 and Romney with 285. Newt Gingrich was fourth with 171.

Statewide caucus results in Iowa showed a much closer race with Romney managing a narrow eight-vote victory over Santorum and Paul finishing third.

But in Jasper County, the story was all Santorum. His strong showing here comes on the heels of his visit Monday, his third trip to Newton during the campaign season. On Tuesday evening, after news of his huge surge came out, Santorum spoke to his supporters in Des Moines, telling them, “Game on.” During his speech, the presidential hopeful mentioned Newton specifically when talking about places that have lost manufacturing jobs.

Several Newton caucus-goers spoke highly of the former senator who repeatedly touted the importance of family values and faith during his stops here. Newton resident Fred Chabot spoke on behalf of Santorum in his precinct, beseeching his fellow Republicans to ignore other candidates who attracted more attention or spent more money and opt instead for a values-strong candidate like Santorum.

“We have the special opportunity to catapult a true conservative warrior to the top of the national polls and send a message to the rest of the country that we will not surrender our life, family and Biblical values,” he said. “We have found our warrior. Rick Santorum is the one we have been looking for.”

Garfield Berndt, 36, was leaning toward Rick Santorum, too.

“To me, he’s the most moderate, down the road, center of the line (candidate). He’s still young so he has new fresh ideas, but still has the conservative angle that I do respect.”

But while Santorum was the top vote getter, many other caucus-goers liked other candidates, including eventual statewide winner Romney.

Newton resident Barry Jones, 57, was caucusing for Mitt Romney.

“I believe he has some management skills and want somebody who has a little savvy as far as business and general management skills. Hopefully he can loosen up the gridlock and get things moving.”

Newton resident Bob Kuhn, 57, liked what Ron Paul offers.

“I think it’s time for a change in Washington, and he’s the only one that came out with a plan to reduce the deficit and I think that our biggest problem is overspending,” he said.

Marshall Critchfield, the county chairman for Gingrich’s campaign, was caucusing for his candidate.

“It really comes down to three things: experience, wisdom and vision, and he exemplifies all three of those to the point where I can’t really consider anybody else,” he said. “He is the most qualified to take on Obama in debates and in policy. People say all this about economic experience and hardcore social issues, what it really comes down to is, who’s been there? And he’s done it.”

Other candidates garnered fewer supporters, both in Jasper County and across the state, which could mark the end of the road for their presidential aspirations. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann announced this morning that she was canceling a trip to South Carolina and Texas Gov. Rick Perry indicated he was returning home to reconsider his strategy.

County Republicans Chair Dale Springing was pleased overall with how the caucusing went.

“I think without a doubt we probably had the most people we ever had,” he said “Big numbers, that’s the story, a lot of Democrats and independents changing their party so they could vote.”

Springer noted that spacing out the caucused helped avoid issues at most places, though he noted that there were a few issues with latecomers and the number of ballots available at the Berg location.

As far as the result, Springer was not surprised to see Santorum win in Jasper County.

“Actually I’m surprised he didn’t win better than he did,” he said. “It was obvious at the end that he was surging.”

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