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Mr. Paul continued to pack rooms with supporters, though many of them were out-of-staters who flew or drove in to spread the maverick candidate’s gospel of limited government and a retrenchment of America’s military.

All told, the candidates made 914 different appearances to meet with voters, according to the Des Moines Register’s tally, which gave Mr. Santorum the top spot at 312 events. For his part, Mr. Santorum says he actually held 381 town halls — some of them stretching for up to two hours as he fielded questions.

That strategy didn’t seem to be paying off until late in the race, when Mr. Santorum saw a stunning surge of support in the final 10 days. Voters leaving an event in Marshalltown last week said they were going home to rip their Perry signs off their yard and replace them with Santorum signs.

Still to be seen is which candidates can compete as the campaign expands into multiple states. New Hampshire holds its primary Tuesday, South Carolina holds its primary Jan. 21, and Florida holds its primary Jan. 31.

In the first week of February, Nevada, Maine, Colorado and Minnesota hold caucuses, and Missouri holds a nonbinding primary, and then Arizona and Michigan hold primaries Feb. 28.

In a move that underscores his deep pockets and broad organization, Mr. Romney on Tuesday released an ad to run in Florida. He also announced he will shuttle back and forth between New Hampshire and South Carolina later this week to keep a presence in both states.

Paige Winfield Cunningham reported from Manilla, Iowa, and Susan Crabtree reported from Waukee, Iowa.