Bellevue, barbecue on Santorum's plate in Memphis - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bellevue, barbecue on Santorum's plate in Memphis

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Rick Santorum greets supporters at Corky's barbecue. Rick Santorum greets supporters at Corky's barbecue.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and his family spent Sunday in Memphis.

Polls show Santorum's popularity rising in Tennessee, but waning nationwide.

Santorum covered a lot of ground during his visit to Memphis.

"Had some real authentic Memphis barbecue.  Can't beat that," he said.  "Went to a couple of church services.  Got to meet some folks.  Had a wonderful opportunity there."

Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines prayed for the Santorums at Sunday morning's service, though he did not endorse a candidate.

"Lord, open doors for them that no one can shut," said Gaines.

After a stop at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Santorum and his family went to lunch at Corky's on Poplar for lunch and a meet and greet.

"It's great, coming up on Super Tuesday, all the enthusiasm," said Santorum supporter Dwayne Craft.  "The grassroots efforts are paying off.  We're just excited."

"I've been watching all the presidential debates and it's exciting to actually see in person," said Corky's server Thomas Bell.

"It's his social values that allow him to lead with integrity," said Shelby County Santorum volunteer Elaine Ervin.

With Secret Service and the national press corps in every corner of the restaurant, some of Santorum's local support included Shelby County Commissioners Wyatt Bunker and Heidi Shafer.

Sunday's Rasmussen Reports poll shows the GOP primary is narrowing down to two.  Voters in Tennessee favor Santorum over Romney with 34 percent to 30 percent.

Nationwide, Romney is leading 40 percent to Santorum's 24 percent.

"Governor Romney goes out there and outspends you like four, five, six, to one," said Santorum.  "It's going to take a toll."

Santorum called himself the insurgent campaigner and Romney the insider.  He said America needs to remove bureaucracy from education and curb gas prices by opening more supply lines.

Corky's pitmaster Robert Boyd said the frenzy surrounding the visit was no match for Santorum's appetite.

"Just was a normal guy," said Boyd.  "He wanted some dry ribs, a little bit, and some wet ribs.  He also had some barbecue nachos, what we're special for, and he had some onion loaf."

Boyd said Santorum was not a shy eater.

Santorum went to the airport after lunch.  He said he is excited and hopes to come out on top on Super Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Romney made a campaign stop in Knoxville, Tennessee Sunday afternoon.  He spoke to a crowd at West Hills Elementary School.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam introduced Romney at the event.  Haslam has publicly endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.

Newt Gingrich will also stop in Knoxville Monday.  He is scheduled to speak at the Hilton Knoxville Airport next to McGhee Tyson Airport at 4:00 p.m.

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