Politics

              Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., greets people outside the Homestead Grocery and Deli Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, during a campaign stop in Amherst, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
              Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., greets people outside the Homestead Grocery and Deli Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012, during a campaign stop in Amherst, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)   

Santorum struggles with newfound celebrity, media scrutiny

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

BEDFORD, N.H. — With success in the polls comes scrutiny from the voters, the press, and the other candidates. Former Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign has had to learn that lesson quickly since his almost-win in the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday.

Until Iowa, Santorum went all but unnoticed. He was polling below five percent in most state and national polls, so scrutiny seemed unnecessary. But when he arrived in New Hampshire Wednesday morning, it was a whole different ball game.

For one thing, said Santorum communications director Matt Beynon, the crowd sizes just blew up.

“It happened so fast,” he told The Daily Caller.

As Santorum started seeing an uptick in the Iowa polls, his campaign suddenly had to look for new venues for events to accommodate all the people who wanted to hear what the candidate had to say. An event Thursday at a diner in Manchester had to be moved outside to the parking lot because the fire marshals told them the crowd had exceeded capacity. Another event on Saturday, Beynon said, had about 1,500 people and similarly had to be moved outdoors.

“We’re not even doing calls for the events,” Beynon said, marveling at the number of people who were showing up. Instead, the campaign just places ads in local newspapers and waits.

Unlike former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had to scramble to set up a campaign when he saw his numbers surging last month, Santorum has had an organization in place for months. “Not the flashy stuff” that gets media attention, Beynon said, but a functional organization.

Santorum has also had to address a host of new questions about his record, and the campaign seems slightly less sure about how to deal with the increased media scrutiny.

During the debate-watch party at Santorum Headquarters in Bedford Saturday night, campaign staff was uneasy with the presence of reporters.

About ten minutes in, reporters were asked to leave, which Beynon explained was because the entire press staff was attending the debate, and the remaining staff were uncomfortable having reporters there without press staff present.

Ultimately, reporters were permitted to stay on the condition that they had no further on-the-record conversations with staffers. Supporters, however, were not off-limits.

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