Santorum, Pawlenty Keep Their Chins Up

A pair of struggling GOP presidential hopefuls, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, fought for the title of most popular campaign underdog in separate television appearances Sunday.

Santorum, who served two terms in the Senate, dubbed his presidential effort “the little engine that could campaign” during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He set low expectations for next month’s straw poll in Ames, Iowa, and noted the challenges of fundraising for an upstart campaign.

“We’ll see how we do,” he said of the straw poll, in which he hopes to finish in “fifth or sixth or fourth or something like that and do better and make sure that we’re making progress.”

Santorum said his fundraising numbers, yet to be released, will “come in very much at the low end,” especially compared with the $18.3 million raised in the second quarter by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a frontrunner in the field of GOP candidates.

“Mitt Romney has been running for president for four years, and he’s the favorite,” said Santorum, who launched his campaign last month.

Pawlenty, who is heavily courting Iowa voters, batted away recent polling that shows him trailing in the Hawkeye State.

“I just announced my campaign six weeks ago, so I think it’s a little early for that,” he said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But more importantly, these early polls are not a good indicator of anything. If they were, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States. They almost never predict the outcome.”

Asked whether he was too dull to be electable, Pawlenty said, “Well, look, if people want the entertainer in chief, they should vote for somebody else.”

Later, he quipped: “I’m an old hockey player. I’ve been in more fights than the rest of the candidates.”

Pawlenty criticized Romney for pushing through a sweeping health care reform law while he was governor and said the plan would be politically problematic for the frontrunner.

As for fellow Minnesotan and GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty had even more to say.

“Well, I like Congresswoman Bachmann. I’ve campaigned for her. I respect her. But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent,” he said. “And so we’re not looking for folks who, you know, just have speech capabilities. We’re looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion. I’ve done that and she hasn’t.”