It's All Politics
10:05 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Santorum Reacts To Romney Romp In Florida By Going After Gingrich

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum chose to characterize his distant third-place finish in Florida's Republican presidential primary as a victory, of sorts.

"Speaker Gingrich spent 5 or 6 million bucks in the state of Florida and walked away with no delegates," he told NPR after a packed primary night event at his Nevada headquarters in Las Vegas. "I didn't spend a penny."

"We are in a cash-positive position," he said, adding that his campaign on Tuesday raised $200,000 online.

Though planning a Wednesday speech that compares President Obama's health care legislation to that passed in Massachusetts when Florida primary winner Mitt Romney was governor, Santorum continued to bear down on Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker.

"He just simply isn't a conservative," Santorum said, citing as examples Gingrich's support for bank bailouts and cap-and-trade legislation.

Santorum claims that Gingrich squandered his big primary win in South Carolina going into the Florida primary by making himself, and not President Obama, the issue, and revealing himself as an undisciplined campaigner.

"I think you're going to see the race change in the next couple days," he told NPR, as the voting moves to Nevada, Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

Though Santorum says he sees a path to the nomination as the Romney alternative, it's not an easy one. He doesn't have the money or organization Romney enjoys, and he has so far largely failed to expand his support beyond Christian conservatives.

And he posts poorly in head-to-head polling matchups with President Obama.

While Santorum vociferously disagrees with the contention that he would not make a strong Republican opponent for Obama, poll averages at RealClearPolitics.com show Obama defeating Santorum by about 10 percentage points in a theoretical general election. (They also show Obama defeating Gingrich by12.4 percentage points, Texas Rep. Ron Paul by 5.4 percentage points, and Romney by 2.3 percentage points.)

There is also a relatively long gap before the next nationally televised GOP presidential debate, Feb. 22 in Arizona. Santorum — like Gingrich — has used strong debate performances to keep his campaign going with very little money.

Nonetheless, Santorum's campaign manager, Mike Biundo, echoed his boss's in-it-for-the-long run mantra.

"This is a long race," Biundo said. "We are not mortgaging everything on one state."

Santorum, who has outlasted four other GOP presidential candidates who have dropped out, is aiming, right now, to outlast Gingrich.

"I'm a patient man," he said. "If you have seven kids, you better be patient."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.