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Santorum: South Carolina is not end of line

- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2012

MT. PLEASANT, S.C. — Rick Santorum said Friday he will continue his campaign on into Florida regardless of how he does this weekend in South Carolina's primary, saying the last 24 hours have been so dramatic they could alter the race in fundamental way.

The former Pennsylvania senator, who on Thursday learned he had actually won Iowa's caucuses over front-runner Mitt Romney, said he also now has the financial resources to continue to campaign in Florida, which holds its primary Jan. 31, and beyond.

And he said he wants to see how Thursday's other events — Texas Gov. Rick Perry's withdrawal from the race, and new allegations of marital and temperament problems with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — play out.

"We're going forward. This race has just transformed itself in the last 24 hours. I'm not too sure whether that will shake out and show by Saturday," he told C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" program. "We feel very good that we can go down there and be competitive, and frankly beyond that."

In Thursday's debate, Mr. Santorum took his harshest shots yet at Mr. Gingrich, accusing him of having known about the House banking scandal of the 1990s for at least a decade and failing to do anything about it.

Mr. Santorum was one of seven House members who exposed the matter, in which hundreds of House members were overdrawing their accounts with the House bank without any penalty or punishment. In some cases members had overdrawn hundreds of checks, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr. Santorum — who said Mr. Gingrich told him personally he'd known about the practice for years — used the incident as a way of calling into question Mr. Gingrich's conservative credentials

Mr. Gingrich didn't respond to the specific charge about the bank, but said he'd been fighting against congressional bad behavior for years, pointing to the ethics charges he lodged against then-House Speaker Jim Wright.

In the debate, Mr. Gingrich also fired back against an interview his second ex-wife gave to ABC in which she said he had asked for an "open marriage" and said he is not fit to be president.

Mr. Gingrich accused the press of malfeasance for running the story, and singled out CNN's John King, the debate moderator, for making it the first question of the debate.

"To take an ex-wife and make it, two days before the primary, a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine," Mr. Gingrich said. "The story is false."

A voter asked Mr. Santorum about the charges and Mr. Gingrich's response on Friday morning, when he was campaigning at Hudson's Barbeque in Lexington.

Echoing his own response in the debate, Mr. Santorum called the charge an "issue of character" that voters should look at, but stopped short of directly criticizing Mr. Gingrich.

"These are issues that people will consider based on the time, when, where, how, all those things will factor in and I'll let the people make that decision," he said. "I'm certainly not going to make it for them."

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