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Santorum's Iowa Surge Deflates in New Hampshire Santorum's Iowa Surge Deflates in New Hampshire

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Campaign 2012

Santorum's Iowa Surge Deflates in New Hampshire

The former Pennsylvania senator was not a comfortable fit for the state.

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Rick Santorum could not carry his Iowa success into New Hampshire.(Allen Gannett)

As Rick Santorum left Iowa, after battling Mitt Romney to a draw, he spoke hopefully of the time he had invested in New Hampshire, of the 30 campaign trips he had made to the state, and how he hoped to surprise folks in its storied primary.

But Santorum’s wings wobbled in the less-favorable climate of New Hampshire. With voters tuning in, and ready to give him a listen, he failed to convey the stirring message of national revival that he offered in his Iowa victory speech.

 

In the end, the former Pennsylvania senator failed in New Hampshire to achieve his own stated standard of success: “To show that we are the strong conservative alternative.”

Santorum’s unbending promotion of traditional values, which appealed to evangelical voters in Iowa, was out of place in the famously independent, more libertarian, state with the motto "Live Free or Die."

The lingering image of his campaign in New Hampshire is that of him being jeered by an audience of young people during a testy exchange over gay rights and marriage. It seemed to confirm the media portrayal of Santorum as a polarizing figure in Congress, and something of a scold.

 

As the votes were tabulated, Santorum found himself locked in a battle for fourth place with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His campaign manager, Mike Biundo, said the campaign is moving staffers to South Carolina and plans to spend at least $1 million there on ads and direct mail.

"We are going to go on to South Carolina" Santorum told supporters after Romney was declared the victor.

Santorum told National Journal he had no regrets about competing in New Hampshire. “No! No. We feel very good,” he said. “I’ve known for a long time that New Hampshire is full of tough questions.”

But Republican consultant and commentator John Feehery said Santorum went “off-stride” in New Hampshire. “Instead of talking about the best part of his message, he went off and was distracted by all the gay stuff,” he said.

 

The trudging brand of retail politicking that Santorum employed successfully in Iowa seemed out of sync in the final week of the New Hampshire contest. He needed to win votes in bunches with concise, resonant appeals, not one-by-one in town meetings, with exhortations that seemed to drag forever. He earned unhappy notoriety as long-winded—if not downright boring.

Santorum paid a price for his at-the-wire finish in Iowa. There was shock value in that homestretch surge, but it left him unprepared and with no time to unite the anyone-but-Romney voters.

The conservative New Hampshire Union Leader had already placed its bet on Gingrich. The libertarians remained loyal to Texas Rep. Ron Paul. And Jon Huntsman had bet all on New Hampshire, virtually living in the Granite State, just as Santorum had once camped out in Iowa.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, meanwhile, ran an effective campaign, wresting the story line from Santorum on their first day back in New Hampshire with a joint appearance and endorsement by Arizona Sen. John McCain, a Granite State favorite. More than half of New Hampshire voters called themselves conservative in the exit polls—and they sided with Romney over Santorum by a two-to-one margin.

Though Santorum campaigned with characteristic energy, by the end of the week the polls showed he had stalled. By Monday, he was making excuses. He had not had the money to run commercials in the state, nor the time and organization to capitalize on the Iowa results, he acknowledged. “We’ve only really spent five days in the last month campaigning” in New Hampshire, he told reporters.

Naureen Khan contributed contributed to this article.

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