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By Sam Youngman

MANCHESTER, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Rick Santorum never showed up for a scheduled Election Day stop at the busiest voting ward in this New Hampshire city on Tuesday.

The voters of New Hampshire didn't show up for him either.

Just one week after Santorum surprised the U.S. Republican presidential field by nearly winning the Iowa caucuses, his hopes of facing off against President Barack Obama came crashing back to Earth on Tuesday with a lackluster finish in the New Hampshire primary.

With voters in the state focused on the economy, Santorum's week in New Hampshire as the candidate of social conservatism fell flat. Only a few supporters turned out for his election night party.

"We knew it would be tough," Santorum told the sparse crowd.

Iowa and New Hampshire held the first two contests in the state-by-state battle for the Republican nomination to face Democratic President Barack Obama on November 6.

Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania who lost in Iowa by just eight votes to frontrunner Mitt Romney, could not sustain that momentum and drew just about 10 percent in New Hampshire.

"I think Santorum would be better in South Carolina," said supporter Anton Kaska of Manchester, referring to the conservative southern state that holds the next primary on January 21.

New Hampshire has a moderate streak, and Santorum's hardline social conservative policies were out of step.

Santorum had hoped to ride a wave of momentum from his surprise Iowa finish into New Hampshire.

But after a week of clashes with voters over gay marriage and abortion, Santorum appeared to be limping out of New Hampshire with his eyes on South Carolina, where voters put as much of a premium on social issues as those in Iowa.

Santorum said Tuesday night that he has jumped up in support after most polls a week ago showed him with 1 percent to 3 percent support in New Hampshire.

"Depending on your math we have either five times, 10 times or three times where we started," Santorum said. "That's what we wanted to do. We wanted to respect the process here."

In contrast to Romney, who was well organized in New Hampshire, Santorum acknowledged he did not have time to build an organization in the state that could help maintain his Iowa momentum.

Dante Scala, a political science professor at the University of New Hampshire, said Santorum "lost control" of the story, becoming the candidate of conservative social issues in a state where gay marriage is legal.

Santorum did not have the resources to spend advertising in New Hampshire, and Scala said the former senator paid the price.

"Without paid media, Santorum lost control of his story," Scala said. "He dwelt on his opposition to gay marriage, which did not play to moderate Republicans here."

The lack of money and time won't be as much of a factor for Santorum moving forward.

Foster Friess, a Wyoming billionaire and conservative activist, told Reuters on Tuesday that Santorum will have all the money he needs to compete in South Carolina.

Friess is a major contributor to Red, White, and Blue, a political action committee (PAC) supporting Santorum's campaign. So far, Red, White, and Blue has committed $200,000 to advertising in South Carolina.

While this funding pales in comparison to the amounts committed by PACs supporting rivals Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Friess said he's willing to keep his wallet open.

(Additional reporting by Samuel P. Jacobs in Washington; Editing by Deborah Charles and Will Dunham)

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