Rick Santorum's grassroots traction among Iowa social conservatives was evident after he scored two key endorsements from influential conservative leaders in Iowa Tuesday, even though the influential group the leaders head declined to weigh in behind the GOP presidential candidate. 

Bob Vander Plaats president of The Family Leader, and Bob Hurley, the head of the Iowa Family Policy both announced that they were supporting Santorum for president, though the board of the Family Leader issued a statement saying it prefers to remain neutral.

"I believe Rick Santorum comes from us, just not to us, he comes from us," Vander Plaats said during a press conference. "I see him as a champion for the family in the U.S. House, I see him as a champion for the family in the U.S. Senate, as a champion for the family."

"I really believe he could be Huckabee in this race, " said Vander Plaats, a 2008 backer of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, now a Fox News host who won the state's caucuses that year.

Shortly before the Fox News debate in Sioux City, Iowa, last Thursday, Republican sources were telling Fox News to keep an eye out for a late surge by Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania. 

Despite being in the back of the GOP presidential pack in polling, Santorum, whose Iowa strategy includes a swing through all 99 of the state's counties, appeared to be gaining some ground among religious conservative voters who said they could not support frontrunners Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney or Ron Paul.

Speaking before receiving word of the two men's backing, Santorum told Fox News on Tuesday that it would be a "great boost" to his campaign. 

"I am hopeful we'll get that," Santorum said. "Whoever gets this endorsement is clearly going to have the edge."

After the announcement, Santorum said he was honored for the support. 

"Their reach and influence covers all corners of Iowa, and I know they did not take this endorsement lightly. This means so much more to our campaign. If their work on behalf of Governor Huckabee four years ago is any indication, I have no doubt they will be a terrific catalyst for our campaign as we continue building momentum in Iowa," he said.

The Family Leader, arguably the most significant group among Iowa religious conservatives, had been weighing whether to endorse one of four candidates -- Santorum, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. 

In the end, the organization decided not to endorse anyone but allowed Vander Plaats to offer his personal support.

"The Family Leader Board of Directors views its role in the 2012 caucus process as a standard bearer versus a kingmaker. However, The Family Leader Board of Directors recognizes that there are thousands of undecided pro-family Iowa caucus goers looking for leadership in this selection process," reads a statement.

In response, a group of evangelical pastors and faith leaders supporting Bachmann sent a out a statement reacting to the the Family Leader's decision to remain neutral in the race.

"Michele Bachmann is a biblically qualified, capable, no-compromise leader who is the only truly consistent conservative in the race, " reads the letter sent out from Bachmann's campaign. "She has met every criterion that the Family Leader has established. Iowans of faith know that Michele Bachmann, more than any other candidate in the race, can be counted on to defend and encourage the traditional, Christian values ... She remains completely deserving of the Family Leader's full endorsement."

Though Vander Plaats and the Santorum campaign are hoping to channel the same momentum as Huckabee in 2008, he has a more difficult incline for such a trajectory.

Four years ago, Huckabee's boom in the polls had already happened well before Christmas week. In fact, it was in November 2007, when Newsweek came out with a game-changing poll showing Huckabee with a surprising double-digit lead over Mitt Romney in Iowa.

But Vander Plaats and Hurley's endorsements will likely give Santorum a needed boost among social conservatives despite the nearly insurmountable amount of ground he must cover during this truncated timeline to the top tier before the Jan. 3 caucuses, now just two weeks away.