- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

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.

Rick Santorum is in the game,” said Bill Cahill, a senior New Hampshire adviser. “He is going to come into here with a full head of steam. It is an incredible shot of adrenaline for the campaign.”

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.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gingrich indicated he intends to take a tougher tack on opponents who have targeted him with negative campaigning, at one point calling Mr. Romney a liar.

“Somebody who will lie to you to get to be president will lie to you when they are president,” Mr. Gingrich said in a jab at Mr. Romney.

Mr. Gingrich, of Georgia, said the former Massachusetts governor is a liar when he says he has had nothing to do with anti-Gingrich ads run by the Restore Our Future political action committee.

“This is a man whose staff created the PAC; his millionaire friends fund the PAC; he pretends he has nothing to do with the PAC. It’s baloney. He’s not telling the American people the truth. It’s just like his pretense that he’s a conservative,” he said.

Mr. Gingrich also is running a full-page newspaper ad in the Manchester Union Leader, the state’s largest paper, that portrays Mr. Romney as a “timid Massachusetts moderate.”

Ryan Williams, a Romney spokesman in New Hampshire, said his boss has shrugged off Mr. Gingrich’s comments. He said the campaign’s focus is on turning out its supporters in all the early-contest states, including in New Hampshire, where Mr. McCain torpedoed Mr. Romney’s chances of becoming the party’s presidential nominee with his come-from-behind victory in the 2008 primary.

Mr. Williams said the campaign has been able to build on the infrastructure leftover from the campaign four years ago and has developed a “ground game in New Hampshire that is second to none.”

The scene was much quieter earlier in the day at the Santorum campaign headquarters in nearby Bedford, where Nick Pappas, the campaign’s field director, said about 20 volunteers were knocking on doors and others were planting campaign signs in the ground “before the ground freezes.”

Surrounded by maps of New Hampshire and Iowa, Mr. Cahill, a senior adviser to the Santorum campaign, said his candidate, who also has chalked up 150 events in the Granite State, has a full schedule over the next week.

“He’s not going to South Carolina, and there is a reason for that,” he said. “He has a lot of time and resources invested in this operation here in New Hampshire. Why would he spend all the time and all the resources and all the good will doing all the work he has done here in New Hampshire and just blow it off?

“Maybe for some it’s a good political calculation, to do a drive-by day in New Hampshire and go on to Spartanburg,” he said. “But that’s not what Rick Santorum’s going to do. He’s going to build on his momentum.”

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