After hundreds if not thousands of public opinion polls to measure the race, Iowa Republicans will cast the first real votes of the 2012 presidential campaign in just 28 days.

Despite that urgency, Rick Santorum is the only candidate campaigning in the state today. Santorum has held 250 town hall meetings in the state this year, and he expects that nose-to-the-grindstone campaign style to pay off soon. 

“It’s not going to be anything that any debate performance is going to do. It’s going to be the hard work that we’ve put in and talking to the people of Iowa and the people of Iowa responding the way they have in the past and that is ignoring the national media, ignoring the pundits and putting forth the best conservative candidate that’s out there,” Santorum said Monday during a news conference in Sioux City. “That’s what I’ve been counting on. I think our numbers will continue to steadily grow…and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people on caucus day.”

Santorum had six percent support in The Des Moines Register’s most recent Iowa Poll, but Santorum argues the survey doesn’t do a good job of “reflecting the ground game” that will play out on Caucus Night.  Santorum’s campaign is lining up people to speak on his behalf at every Caucus site, before the voting begins.

“Anywhere from 25-35 percent of the people who come to the caucus come really undecided and if you have…an active presence there and you’ve got folks working there for you and you’ve been to the community and they have a personal relationship with you that means a lot to get people to come over to your side and help out,” Santorum said. “And so I suspect that polls that are out there will always underestimate our strength and so we’ve always felt that…we’ll be at the top and maybe even win.”

Santorum held a town hall meeting this morning at 8 a.m. in Storm Lake. He’s due to hold another meeting in Spencer at noon.

(Additional reporting in Sioux City by KSCJ Radio’s Woody Gottburg)