Santorum Faces Uphill Climb After Impressive Iowa Finish Staff

1/4/2012 4:50:00 PM - Staff

The morning after the Iowa caucuses, winner Mitt Romney appeared on the major network television morning shows and numerous cable outlets. Rick Santorum, who registered a win of his own with a stunning come from behind finish just eight votes short of Romney, was nowhere to be seen.

For someone who needs as much "free media" as Santorum does to turn his win into momentum for the upcoming contests in New Hampshire and South Carolina, that lack of visibility was puzzling. (He did make several television appearances later in the day).

Santorum, the newly anointed coalition conservative challenger to Romney, faces a daunting operational challenge of trying to turn his electoral success in Iowa into kind of campaign machine could compete with the Romney campaign juggernaut.

Romney spent millions in Iowa, and Santorum just a tiny fraction of that, with some reports putting Romney's cost per vote arond $50 to Santorum less than a dollar. And those money differences show up in all kinds of ways.

On caucus day, Santorum's insurgent campaign appeared to be caught off-guard by their man's newfound status as the not-Romney flavor-of-the-week when it actually mattered.

Romney began the day with a well orchestrated rally in Des Moines, complete with an introduction from a sitting US senator, a professional stage, a row of American flags and plenty of space for the dozens of cameras capturing his every mood. In short, it was presidential.

Santorum, on the other hand, spoke in the gym of a Christian school where the staging of a meager podium and space for the media was put together by a network cameraman and a school administrator who did so out of pure necessity.

Santorum did spend the previous day moving from packed event to packed event, each one appearing to be more like what could be expected of the winner than the last.

During a break, the former Pennsylvania senator tended to campaign responsibilities (read: "fundraising") while sitting in the back seat of his truck parked outside of a hotel where he had just spoken. He is obviously packing a lot into his schedule as the success in Iowa puts his campaign into high gear, ready for it or not.

Romney himself highlighted Santorum's challenge in an interview with Bob Schieffer for Face to Face, the new weekly webcast with the Face the Nation host.

"It's so hard to tell what's going to happen from the other contenders, whether they'll be able to get the funding and the ground teams they need to go on to the subsequent states," Romney said.

"Rick Santorum spent a lot of time as you know here in Iowa, he's now going to have to build that support elsewhere, but I don't think he's at ground zero elsewhere. He's been working those other places, he's got good support and I think he'll be a real contender," he added.

At the Santorum school event, a sophisticated camera crew the campaign had hired captured his remarks. The same crew was at Santorum's election night rally said they were there "shooting a commercial."

Santorum's impressive finish Tuesday and fundraising efforts could mean the former Pennsylvania senator is about to step up his game.