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Rick Santorum Predicts He'll Win 'Vast Majority' Of Iowa Delegates

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WASHINGTON -- Rick Santorum predicted on Sunday that he will out-organize both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul in Iowa, and that he will end up with the "vast majority" of the Hawkeye State's 28 delegates.

"You know, we barely won Iowa by 34 votes. But they had their conventions yesterday. We're going to win the vast majority of delegates in the state of Iowa but nobody has that in their count," Santorum said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Santorum, referring to The Associated Press' estimate of delegates won in the Jan. 3 caucus, said "they have us winning by one vote."

"That's not going to be the case when the delegates from these caucuses are actually elected."

Santorum barely defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Romney in Iowa's popular vote on Jan. 3, winning 29,839 votes to Romney's 29,805 votes. The AP's projection is that if Santorum is still in the race at the Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., this August, he would have 13 delegates to Romney's 12. Three of the state's delegates are super delegates: state party officials who can cast their vote at the national convention for whoever they want.

Santorum's prediction comes at a time when the Romney campaign's chief argument against Santorum's candidacy is that he has fallen too far behind in the race to win the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. A loose count by the AP of all the delegates accumulated so far has Romney with 454 delegates to Santorum's 217. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) has 107 delegates in the loose count, and Rep. Paul (R-Texas) has 47.

But before results from Kansas, Wyoming, Hawaii, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Norther Marianas came in over the last day or two, the Republican National Committee's count of delegates won was far more conservative, because they do not count delegates who are bound by state party rules to a certain delegate. The RNC's count had Romney with 339 delegates, Gingrich with 107, Santorum with 95, and Paul with 22.

Santorum's guarantee about winning the most Iowa delegates was bold, and bordered on audacious. Santorum did spend a lot of time campaigning in Iowa, is plugged in to the state's conservative grassroots, and is probably more organized there than anywhere else. And he has emerged as the top conservative alternative to Romney, though Gingrich remains in the race and could once again muddy the waters if he wins either of the primaries in Mississippi or Alabama on Tuesday.

"Unlike in January, now there is only one conservative still in the race," Santorum adviser John Brabender told The Huffington Post Sunday, when asked what Santorum was basing his prediction on.

But Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, is not the only one with an organization in Iowa. Romney and Paul are both well prepared for a delegate fight at the state convention in Des Moines, Iowa, on June 16.

Paul's campaign was focused on getting its people elected as delegates to the state convention back on Jan. 3, and handed out cheat sheets to supporters at rallies before the Iowa caucuses instructing them on the importance of becoming state delegates and offering step by step pointers on how to do it.

Paul was only 3,000 votes behind Santorum and Romney on Jan. 3, finishing with 26,036 votes. But he is currently projected to win zero delegates in the AP count. Nonetheless, his national campaign chairman, Jesse Benton, told HuffPost last week that they expect to win "multiple conventions and state delegations" and said Iowa is one of several states they are focused on.

On Sunday, Benton took a hard shot at Santorum in response to his claim that he will win most of the state's delegates.

"Santorum's campaign is extremely disorganized," Benton told HuffPost in an e-mail. "They have simply not done the work to win, train and elect delegates to the state convention process."

"His campaign is all about hype and earned media, while our campaign and Dr. Paul's supporters have out-organized, out strategized and, ultimately, out-worked him," Benton said.

As an example of the Paul's campaign's organizing prowess, another Republican operative allied with Paul sent along an article from The Las Vegas Review-Journal, which reported that on Saturday in Nevada's largest county, Paul supporters "effectively took control of the Clark County Republican Party by winning election to 14 executive board positions, or two-thirds of the ruling body."

Paul's backers won around half of the 1,382 delegates to the Nevada state convention that will run from May 2 to May 4, the Review-Journal reported.

In Iowa, Romney may not have the allegiance of the state's evangelical-dominated conservative base, or of Paul's own hardcore supporters, but he does have a good portion of the Republican establishment. A Republican source in the state who is supportive of Romney, said that Romney's organizers in Iowa pushed through a lot of their own delegates to the state convention, especially from the largest counties.

All 99 of Iowa's counties held county conventions on Saturday, and held votes to elect delegates to the state convention on June 16.

Santorum may win a plurality of the delegates at the state convention, the Romney supporter said, but he won't win the majority, and Paul's supporters will also be a major factor.

But Brabender pointed to Santorum's win in North Dakota this past week as an example of Santorum's momentum overcoming the organizations of Romney and Paul.

"Everyone in the press was telling me how good Romney and Paul were going to do in North Dakota because of how organized they are," Brabender said. "Problem is it doesn't matter how organized you are if no one is buying your message, or if they don't really believe you are a conservative."

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