THERE'S A compelling scene in the documentary film "Caucus," released last month, when pollsters for the Des Moines Register lay out their conclusions to the newspaper's editors just before the 2012 Iowa caucus.
Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum is neck and neck with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney after spending the first two-thirds of the film coming off as an also-ran candidate, losing the attention game to a field of sizzle-then-fizzle competitors such as U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and radio host Herman Cain.
The newspaper's top editor, stunned, asks, "Jesus, could he win this Tuesday night?"
The political editor replies: "I kept waiting. When are they going to reward Rick Santorum for being here."
Santorum won the caucus by just 34 votes, making him the unlikely victor for the film's conclusion. His own campaign eventually fizzled and he was out of the race by the time the Pennsylvania Republican primary was held in April.
Now, the Des Moines Register has a new poll, released last weekend.
Santorum is in a solid third place behind front-runner U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and second-place Mike Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor.
The poll shows Santorum with a 58 percent approval rating among Iowa Republicans.
That may be a residual impact of Santorum's past efforts in the state, where his 300-some campaign events took him to each of the state's 99 counties.
"I am heartened by the strong support I have in Iowa," Santorum said this week. "Almost two years have passed since the Iowa caucuses, and it is encouraging to see that many still believe in our campaign's message of fighting for hardworking American families."
Filmmaker A.J. Schnack said Santorum seemed genuine on the campaign trail while other candidates appeared to be performing on stage. That idea likely has stuck with Iowans, he said.
"He's done a pretty good job of getting back to Iowa a few times and making it not just be about, 'Hey, I'm Rick Santorum and I'm going to run again,' " Schnack said. "I think there is some goodwill that carries over."
Santorum was back in Iowa last month when the documentary was premiering. He was stumping for "The Christmas Candle," the first movie offering from EchoLight Studios since Santorum took over the faith-based company.
John Brabender, Santorum's media consultant, said he thinks "most people are very impressed by Rick's numbers" since other potential presidential contenders in the poll have been getting more media attention recently.
"It shows he still has remarkable favorable numbers in Iowa," said Brabender.
There's some infrastructure to build on as well. Santorum has contacts for hundreds of thousands of donors and volunteers in the 2012 effort.
Still Brabender notes that, in Iowa, candidates "have to earn your vote over and over again."
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey got a fair amount of political mileage out of a story about his wife, a "former computer software consultant," facing difficulties in signing up for a health-care exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The Lehigh Valley Republican told the story on Fox News. His office emailed the tale to constituents. He told it across the country last Saturday when the Senate Republicans had him deliver their weekly radio address.
Toomey's broadcast left out one significant piece of information: Despite the initial website difficulty, the Toomeys were able to sign up for health-care insurance through an exchange.
Kris Toomey started trying to sign up on Dec. 2 and was successful on Dec. 11, three days before her husband's radio address, according to his spokeswoman.
So why didn't Toomey mention that in his radio address?
We'd love to tell you but his spokeswoman didn't provide an answer to that question, despite our repeated requests for one.
"That's a good question. I have to think about it." - U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., beating a hasty retreat at Pennsylvania Society when we asked if Pennsylvania is ready for two senators from Scranton. As we reported last week, state Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Scranton native, is considering a 2016 run for the Senate.