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Santorum Fails to Get One Endorsement, But Is Grilled About Another

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(ADEL, Iowa) -- Just over a week before the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum stood next to a coveted endorsement he did not receive on Monday while being grilled about one he did nab last week.

The day after Christmas, Santorum went pheasant hunting with Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has yet to back a candidate although Iowans will caucus on Jan. 3.  The two held a press conference afterwards, but King did not endorse Santorum or anyone and instead said it was just a hunting trip with a “friend.”

“I came here to shoot pheasants today with my friend Rick Santorum and we are having a great, great day.  I’m going to deliberate on all of this and I’ve got a few days yet before a decision has to be made,” King said.

When asked if he was leaning towards the candidate he was standing next to, King joked, “Yes,” before physically leaning toward Santorum, adding he would “prefer to not discuss” a possible endorsement because he wanted to “enjoy the day.”

King said he thought he would have backed one of the GOP candidates three months ago, but he still hasn’t made his decision.

“Part of this is the dynamics of the entire race and I’ve said I want my head and my heart to come together.  When that happens and if that happens I’ll jump in with both feet and I hope it’s not after the ship’s already left, but it may be,” he said.

Santorum, meanwhile, found himself being asked by reporters about another endorsement, that of conservative Christian leader Bob Vander Plaats, who backed the former Pennsylvania senator last week.  The endorsement has been mired in controversy since it happened over whether Vander Plaats asked for cash in exchange for his public support.

Less than 48 hours after receiving the backing of Vander Plaats, the head of the prominent evangelical group The Family Leader, Santorum disclosed that the prominent Iowan told him he needed money to make the most out of the endorsement.

ABC News reported last week that Vander Plaats was soliciting as much as $1 million from Santorum and other candidates.

On the deck of Doc’s Hunt Club in Adel, Iowa, Santorum stood by Vander Plaats’ endorsement saying he was “happy” he received it and he doesn’t “see it as any trouble,” before blaming the firestorm around the endorsement on rival campaigns.

“Obviously some people who didn’t get the endorsement are trying to stir the pot to make it what it isn’t.  And it’s an endorsement based on the fact that they looked at the candidates and they looked at the candidate who fit the profile, who had the courage to go out and fight for the issues that conservatives care about,” Santorum said Monday.  “I think that’s why Bob Vander Plaats did what he did and that’s why others have stepped forward to do the same.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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