• This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 26, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

    SHANNON BREAM, HOST: All right, are we in for an Iowa surprise? Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee says it's possibly yes. Back in 2008, he won Iowa in a bit of an upset, and now he is calling Senator Rick Santorum a surprise candidate who could shake things up in next week's caucuses.

    So what is Senator Santorum doing to make that happen? He joins us now live from Des Moines. Senator, great to see you. I hope you and your family got a little bit of a Christmas break.

    RICK SANTORUM (R-PA), FMR. SEN., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We sure did. We had a couple of days off, and it was wonderful spending it with the kids. And hi, kids! I'm out there in Iowa. We got in first thing this morning and went out and did a little pheasant hunt, which was great, and now we're ready to hit the trail again for the rest of the week.

    BREAM: All right, we saw the pictures. How'd you do?

    SANTORUM: Well, I did great. I mean, we -- any time you're out hunting, it's a great time, whether you get any birds or not. But we knocked -- I knocked down about four. And -- but I call it clean kills. There was some joint kills where everybody had a shot at it, but I felt pretty good. I had a lot of fun, and my son got his first bird! So that was probably the highlight of the day for me.

    BREAM: All right, a great memory for you. But you're also hunting for voters out there in Iowa. You have been incredibly thorough. You've been to all the counties. You have spent a lot of time there with your family in tow. Do you think it's going pay off, even though the polling at this point doesn't have you near the top of the Iowa caucuses? Do you think come next Tuesday night, you could impress and surprise some people?

    SANTORUM: There's no question in my mind that our campaign's the one with the momentum right now. The last week or so, we've picked up not just key endorsements, but people here in Iowa are starting to focus. And they're trying to find the alternative, someone who's a conservative they can trust who can get the job done, who can lead this country, who has the strength and the courage to take on the tough issues here at home, as well as overseas.

    And I've always believed in the people of Iowa. I knew you couldn't buy Iowa. You had to work hard and you had to meet the people. And that's what we've done, and we've communicated that message, and I'm feeling really good that we're going surprise a lot of folks.

    BREAM: All right, you're all in there in Iowa. How well do you have to finish to be viable past the Hawkeye state?

    SANTORUM: Well, look, as you saw from the polls, we're sitting right at the bottom there and among the six candidates that are campaigning here. And our feeling is, you know, there's really three primaries going on here. Ron Paul has his own primary, the libertarian primary. And Gingrich and Romney are sort of the establishment primary. And I think there are three who are vying for the conservative mantle to go up against the Gingrich- Romney duo.

    And I think that I'm going to be the one coming out Iowa with that -- with that mantle. That's what I feel good about. And if we can do that, then we're off to the races here, and conservatives around the country, just like they're doing here in Iowa, are going to start rallying around our campaign.

    BREAM: Do you need a top three finish?

    SANTORUM: I don't know. Like I said, I mean, my feeling is that when you're sitting -- when you're sitting last, if you can do better than that, that's good. And I feel -- you know, as you look at the polls and just feel it here on the ground, we're picking up momentum. We are -- we've got over a thousand caucus captains.

    You know, Doug was talking about people going to the -- or maybe it was Griff talking about people going to the polling places. There are about -- there'll be around a thousand caucus locations. And we're going to have folks on not every one, but almost all of them, and no other campaign is going to have someone there who's going to get up and speak on our behalf, someone who has met me on the campaign trail. They can bring a little passion and a little commitment.

    And about a third to 40 percent of the people who are coming to these caucuses are still going to be undecided. So I feel very good that we have the organization and we've done the work here and we've got the message and the consistent track record that's going to make all the difference.

    BREAM: I want to ask about the newest ad I've seen from you, this pop-up ad, which kind of puts me back in the '80s, probably my favorite decade, as a kid. Anyway, it reminds you very much of VH-1 or the videos where...

    SANTORUM: Right.

    BREAM: ... the video's playing and there's a pop-up that tells you additional information. We're seeing this new ad from you. It talks about your family and who you are.

    SANTORUM: Right.

    BREAM: It's very positive. Do you think that that is what voters there in Iowa respond to? What about negative ads?

    SANTORUM: If I heard anything from the people of Iowa, it's that, you know, they don't want the negative ads. They -- sure, do they work? Of course they work. But what they ultimately want is they want to see who you are. They want to -- they're not voting necessarily on a checklist of issues, although those issues are important.

    They're also trying to understand, you know, whether you have the character that's necessary, the courage, the -- you know, the drive to take on Barack Obama and defeat him and -- and you know, whether you're the kind of person they can trust in the Oval Office to do what you say you're going to do on the campaign trail.

    And that's why I've done the kind of campaign I have, so people can measure us up and get that sense of confidence that we're exactly the kind of person that you could feel comfortable with. You know, Rush Limbaugh said that the other day on his show, that you'd never have to worry a night that, you know, I wasn't trying to do the right thing in the Oval Office. And that's what I hope the people of Iowa have now picked up.

    BREAM: Are you surprised at all that the polls show 45 percent of potential caucus goers still have not decided, basically, one week out? And what do you think is going to be the tipping point for garnering those voters?

    SANTORUM: Yes, I'm really actually very excited about that because if you look at all the polls, I mean, our name recognition is lower than everybody else's. And as you know, in the debates and all the national coverage, we haven't gotten the coverage of everybody else.

    But in a sense, that's a blessing for us. You know, people are now really beginning to discover us, and our plans are to cut $5 trillion over the next five years, to drastically reform the tax code, to revitalize the manufacturing sector of the economy and particularly small town and rural America. Those ideas I think are beginning to take hold here.

    And again, the hard work that we've done, the grass roots organization that we've built -- all of that is focused on the idea that people were going to be coming into these caucuses undecided, and we were going to be the new, fresh alternative coming down the stretch to pick up this big surprise, you know, finish here in Iowa.

    BREAM: All right, Senator Rick Santorum, thanks for taking a break from the campaign trail with us. We'll see you out there in Iowa in just a few days. Thanks so much.

    SANTORUM: Thank you so much, and appreciate it.

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