Basking in the glow of rising polls numbers and an onslaught of media attention, Rick Santorum drew a full house -- mostly of reporters but some die-hard fans as well -- at the Buffalo Wild Wings here this afternoon.
With dozens of giant TVs tuned to the hometown Iowa State Cyclones bowl game, the GOP presidential contender donned a red sweater vest with the Big 12 team's logo.
He chowed down on the joint's famous chicken wings, though not until the throng of reporters finally gave him enough room to sit down.
(He apologized at one point to the diners who came to watch only to watch the game, instead of the media circus.)
Santorum portrayed a relaxed confidence as he responded to questions about polls during the past 48 hours pushing him to third place among potential Iowa caucus-goers, referring a several points to his next steps in and expectations for New Hampshire and South Carolina.
"We're doing nothing different than we have in the past," he said, with two of his children in tow. "We're just going to continue to work hard."
That spike in attention has its downsides as well, he acknowledged.
"I had a great conversation with Newt Gingrich after the last debate, and he said to me, "How did it go?" And I said it would be nice to get a few more questions. He said, 'No it isn't," Santorum said.
Many of the voters who showed up said they already are firmly in the Santorum camp. Joel Jollymore, 37, of Des Moines, said he's followed Santorum since he was in the U.S. Senate, citing his conservatism and positions on social issues were a draw.
But he was really impressed at this year's Ames Straw Poll, when the former senator remembered his name from meeting Jollymore at the state fairgrounds the day before.
"I'm looking at them from the point of view of, who stands with the American people," said Jollymore, who runs a small cleaning business. "Newt [Gingrich] and a lot of the other people that are trying to win Iowa don't have time for the Iowa people."
Santorum, he added, has had "slow, strong, steady, consistent support" because of his background and his message.