Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum pushed back Friday against criticism from a rival for his pursuit of funding for home-state projects during his tenure in Congress.
As he campaigned in Iowa, Santorum vowed to push for deep cuts in federal spending should he win the White House, but that pledge drew only renewed scorn from another candidate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
Perry took a jab at Santorum while promoting himself as a Washington outsider. He labeled Santorum a "serial earmarker," a charge he's made before, and ticked off pork-barrel projects like an indoor rain forest and the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" in Alaska.
Santorum, who has surged in many polls in Iowa, was asked about the criticism at a town hall meeting in Marshalltown.
"I see a little bit of hypocrisy," said the former congressman and senator from Pennsylvania. "He had a paid lobbyist in Washington looking for earmarks."
Santorum said he's already apologized for the use of earmarks, but he also defended them as a tool to force bureaucrats to follow the will of Congress. The right thing to do, he said, is to listen to constituents about their priorities for spending federal money.
"You can't just trust the bureaucracy to make the right call," he said.
Throughout his campaign day, Santorum focused on stepping up his grassroots efforts, turning his attention to delivering backers to next week's caucuses.
Santorum worked his way through a noisy sports bar in Ames to watch Iowa State play Rutgers in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.
Followed by a mob of cameras, Santorum said his campaign is working hard on turnout efforts and has in place 1,000 precinct captains to make the case for him Tuesday.
Santorum has sent out a fundraising appeal on the heels of his improvement in polls and said he just had his best fundraising day ever. He gave no details but said he'll go on the air in New Hampshire on Monday.
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