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Chris Carlson, Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is surrounded by news media following a campaign appearance at the Indianola Public Library Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011, in Indianola, Iowa.

INDIANOLA, lowa — Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is telling Iowa activists they can change the tenor of the race for the Republican nomination if they give him a boost in next Tuesday's caucuses.

The former Pennsylvania senator met Saturday with a room full of activists and a mob of reporters as he opened a five-stop swing through southern Iowa. He says that if he gains momentum a host of social and economic issues will be in play in the race.

Santorum is fighting rival Rick Perry to become the conservative alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.

Also on Saturday, Santorum began airing a new television commercial in Iowa touting himself as a "full spectrum conservative" who has the best chance of beating President Barack Obama. The same commercial starts airing Monday in New Hampshire.