Santorum aims to be GOP race's 'true conservative'

AP News
Posted: Jan 10, 2012 10:49 PM
Santorum aims to be GOP race's 'true conservative'

Dealt a disappointing loss, Republican Rick Santorum pledged "we are going to go on to South Carolina," where he hoped to establish himself as the conservative alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator who came within eight votes of winning Iowa's leadoff caucuses last week, arrived in New Hampshire with only a shell of campaign and was out-organized by his rivals. He didn't spend money on television advertising and never quite made up for effectively ignoring the state for the last month.

"We knew it would be tough," he told supporters even as his aides planned to immediately turn the page and move to South Carolina.

Santorum's advisers eye that state's Jan. 21 primary as one more aligned with Santorum's socially conservative message. Those advisers said they stood a better chance of catching up with Romney, who won his second nominating contest in as many weeks in Tuesday's contest.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed second and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman placed a third despite essentially living in New Hampshire in an effort to derail Romney.

"We are going to go on to South Carolina," Santorum said to applause.

"To those who would like to think that somehow or another that this race can be over in one or two states, states that have been _ well, let's say the backyard and the home to a certain candidate," he said to laughter that interrupted him.

Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts, went into primary with huge advantages in the polls and organizing. But he had them in Iowa, too, and almost proved vulnerable to Santorum's grass-roots efforts.

"We built this campaign here in New Hampshire in just a very short period of time," Santorum said. "We didn't spend a lot of money, but we put a lot of effort in this."

Perhaps expecting the results, Santorum tried to downplay the results here even in the first hours of voting.

"This is going to be a long primary season," he said as he chatted with reporters who watched him greet voters in the morning. "There's going to be lots of opportunities to rise and fall."

Santorum knows something about rising. In the week since moving from also-ran status to finish a close second behind Mitt Romney in Iowa, his fundraising and polling have picked up. He has brought in more money in the last week than he did during his entire presidential bid.

"I think we are in the neighborhood of $3 million since Iowa," Santorum said. "We went nine months on $2 million."

Santorum didn't buy any advertising in New Hampshire, relying instead on a constant stream of media interviews and visits to polling places for some last-minute, face-to-face campaigning.

He isn't making that mistake in South Carolina, where ad time is already reserved.

Four years ago, Romney struggled in South Carolina as the evangelicals never overcame their skepticism of his Mormon faith. Santorum, making a play for them even before his arrival, has branded his town hall tour "Faith, Family, Freedom" in a direct appeal to that voting bloc.