Daniel Doherty

Following Rick Santorum’s narrow second place finish in the Iowa Caucuses on Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidate is starting to resonate with voters in New Hampshire. His recent surge, albeit unimpressive, suggests that Republican voters are reevaluating his candidacy and giving him a second look. Via Reuters:

Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania who finished slightly behind Romney in this week's Iowa nominating contest, rose to third place among likely primary voters, according to a 7 News/Suffolk University tracking poll released on Thursday, edging ahead of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.

But with 8 percent of likely voters polled on January 3 and 4 supporting him, Santorum is well behind Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts who has 41 percent support. Romney polled 43 percent support a day earlier, while Santorum had 6 percent.

"Obviously Mitt Romney is at 40 percent in the polls, the chances in five days to make up a 35 or 40 point lead is going to be pretty limited but we expect to make a run and to move up in those polls and to show that we're the candidate with the momentum and we'll carry that into South Carolina," Santorum told reporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, after speaking to a local civic group.

As might be expected, Santorum is not suffering from any delusions. Unlike Mitt Romney, the former Pennsylvania senator lacks a presence in the Granite State after essentially spending the last six months campaigning in Iowa. This, in effect, will make it exceedingly difficult for him to win in New Hampshire. Although he raised nearly $1 million in 24 hours following Tuesday’s election, Team Santorum – I suspect – is much more concerned about winning the South Carolina primary on January 21.

Further, Karl Rove explains rather succinctly the challenges Santorum will face in the crucial weeks ahead:

Looking ahead, he has to hope New Hampshire pays attention to what happens in Iowa (it traditionally hasn't) and that he can rapidly cobble together money, organization and a message to compete in January's primaries in South Carolina and Florida, as well as the Granite State. Until yesterday, Mr. Santorum hadn't been in New Hampshire in a month, South Carolina for two, and Florida hardly at all.

Nonetheless, as Mr. Rove points out, Rick Santorum is at least in a position to compete in most – if not all – of the early primary states. To be sure, it will be interesting to see how he finishes in New Hampshire. The essential question, however, is whether or not he can convince Republican voters across the nation he’s the strongest candidate running for president. Simply put, it’s going to be a busy and exciting new year for the once down-and-out presidential candidate.


Daniel Doherty

Daniel Doherty is Townhall's Deputy News Editor. Follow him on Twitter @danpdoherty.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography