MUSCATINE, Iowa -- Five days away from the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum was greeted here by a packed room of supporters and a battery of cameras and reporters, suggesting that his long-shot presidential campaign, once just a wisp on the radar screen, had finally found a spark just when it needed it the most.

It was just a day earlier that a new CNN-Time poll showed Santorum in third place, surging past rivals Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. The poll seemed to confirm what had been felt here for days -- that social conservatives here, a key to success in this state, were finally beginning to rally around a single candidate.

And so Santorum awoke to a changed world. For months, the former Pennsylvania senator had crisscrossed the state with little return on his investment, and had been, for all intents and purposes, an afterthought in the political conversation.

But Gingrich's decline in the state seems to have given Santorum an opportunity. And he seemed to be relishing the moment, speaking at a restaurant by the Mississippi River. "We'll turn this country around and Iowa will be the spark that did it," he told the crowd.