BEDFORD, N.H. — The excitement inside former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s campaign headquarters grew throughout the evening here Tuesday as it became increasingly clear that he would finish in a virtual tie for first with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Iowa’s Republican caucuses.
The strong showing in Iowa gave Mr. Santorum’s New Hampshire supporters a boost of energy and some bragging rights heading into next Tuesday’s first-in-the-nation primary here.
The Iowa results punched a hole in the dreams of Romney supporters, who hoped that a clear-cut victory in Iowa, combined with a win in New Hampshire and a strong showing in South Carolina, could set the table for the former Mr. Romney to sew up the nomination in Florida, where his fundraising advantage is expected to give him an edge in the costly TV market.
Instead, the results in Iowa raised the stakes in New Hampshire, where Mr. Romney sits atop a large lead in the polls. Mr. Romney plans on Wednesday to roll out the endorsement of Sen. John McCain, who defeated him in the party’s 2008 nomination race to become the party’s nominee.
Mr. Romney, Mr. Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished a distant fourth in Iowa, are scheduled to be here Wednesday. They’ll join Jon Huntsman, the former Utah governor who skipped Iowa to focus on the Granite State. Mr. Huntsman, who held his 150th event here on Tuesday, has been lapping up the local media coverage while his rivals battle it out in Iowa.
Iowa’s third-place finisher, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, plans to be here on Thursday. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who finished sixth in Iowa and is running well back in the polls in New Hampshire as well, planned to go directly to South Carolina, where she hopes her conservative brand of politics might prove a better fit in that state’s Jan. 21 primary. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also planned to campaign in the Palmetto State but announced following his fifth place finish in Iowa that he would return home to reassess his presidential bid.
Heading into the contest here, it is clear Mr. Romney is still the man to beat in the Granite State, where he basically has been campaigning since losing the nomination contest in 2008. Mr. Santorum, though, has suggested that his conservative message and focus on grass-roots politicking will pay off in New Hampshire, where his national campaign manager, Mike Biundo, worked as a head strategist for Frank Giunta during his successful congressional campaign in 2010.
A Suffolk University/7NEWS poll released Tuesday showed that 43 percent of the respondents backed Mr. Romney, 16 percent backed Mr. Paul and 10 percent backed Mr. Huntsman. Mr. Gingrich received 9 percent, while 5 percent threw their support behind Mr. Santorum, whose showing in the Iowa caucus reinforced the idea that he has become as the latest conservative alternative to Mr. Romney.
David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said the results could spell trouble for Mr. Gingrich.
“Newt Gingrich is struggling to revive his campaign in New Hampshire,” Mr. Paleologos said. “But Rick Santorum now trails Gingrich by only 4 points, and if he surpasses Gingrich and knocks him into fifth place, it would be fatal for Gingrich.”
Mr. Gingrich’s disappointing finish in Iowa came after the former House speaker was pummeled by GOP rivals on the airwaves.