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Santorum, optimistic, plans effort nationwide

/ Source: The New York Times

Despite the cloud cast over Rick Santorum’s campaign by his third-place showing in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, his aides said he was pressing on to Florida on Sunday while also pursuing a broad national campaign strategy.

And his aides promised to wage a long campaign, battling state by state for delegates.

Mr. Santorum plans to visit a conservative church in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Sunday and join a debate Monday night in Tampa, eight days before the Jan. 31 primary there. But he also intends to campaign in states that vote the following week, including Nevada, Minnesota and Colorado, as well as Arizona and Michigan, which vote at the end of February.

“Our campaign is small, and no state is a make-or-break state for us,” said John Brabender, Mr. Santorum’s top media strategist.

“We are very frugal,” he added. “We can go on endlessly.”

The possibility of picking up a smattering of delegates in these states makes them more enticing than Florida, a big, expensive state that awards its delegates on a winner-take-all basis. That means that even a second-place showing earns no delegates, making it a risky place to play.

“We’re not parking ourselves in Florida,” Mr. Brabender said. “There are other good states with proportional voting that will give us delegates.”

Looking on the bright side, campaign aides noted that Mr. Santorum had outlasted five other candidates who had dropped out. And at his campaign party at the Citadel here in Charleston on Saturday night, Mr. Santorum, sounding more victorious than conciliatory, declared, “Three states, three winners, what a country!” He hoped to remind voters that he had won the Iowa caucuses, although the news came in a belated tally that denied him bragging rights until a couple of days ago. Until then, Mitt Romney had been the perceived winner, by eight votes.

Mr. Santorum said Saturday that he was disappointed that his victory in Iowa was tallied so late. “The whole narrative of Romney would have been completely changed and the whole narrative of us would have been completely different,” he told CNN.

The Santorum campaign is counting on Mr. Gingrich’s first-place finish in South Carolina to reconfigure the race substantially. For one thing, aides said, the victory hurts Mr. Romney more than it hurts Mr. Santorum, because Mr. Romney was supposedly the inevitable nominee.

This gave Mr. Santorum a certain glow on Saturday night, as he told CNN that short of winning in South Carolina, he “couldn’t be happier” with the results.

His aides said that Mr. Gingrich’s sudden resurrection meant that the news media would scrutinize him more thoroughly. They also expect the Romney campaign to unload negative ads on Mr. Gingrich, much the way it did in Iowa, suppressing Mr. Gingrich’s surging candidacy.

“A lot of the shine is going to come off Newt,” said Hogan Gidley, Mr. Santorum’s spokesman.

Mr. Santorum indicated that he also would continue his criticism of Mr. Gingrich, the former House speaker. Mr. Santorum had called him unstable, undisciplined and too prone to surprises.

“I made the case — those who have worked with Congressman Gingrich know what’s in store if he’s the nominee,” Mr. Santorum told CNN.

Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments for the Santorum campaign was the absence of support from evangelical networks, even after religious leaders, meeting a week ago in Texas, voted to coalesce around his candidacy. Exit polls showed that a majority of those voters in South Carolina chose Mr. Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum’s aides said that such support takes awhile to build and could not have been organized in a week. And at least one of those religious leaders, Gary Bauer, president of American Values, said he was sticking with Mr. Santorum, “without hesitation.”

“At the end of the day, voters make their own judgment,” he said. “In Iowa, they went with Rick. In South Carolina, they went with Gingrich. We’ll see where they go in other states.”

This story originally appeared in the New York Times under the headline