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Posted at 11:42 AM ET, 01/27/2012

After strong debate performance, Santorum says ‘our time will come’

Coming off a widely praised performance in Thursday
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum participates in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Jacksonville, Fla. (Matt Rourke - Associated Press)
night’s Jacksonville Republican presidential debate, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum insists he is in the Republican race for the long haul.

Despite a win in the Iowa caucuses, Santorum has struggled for attention since — particularly in Florida, where media attention has centered on a behemoth battle between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Speculation that Santorum might not be fully committed to the race was fueled when his campaign indicated he would leave the campaign trail for fundraisers in Virginia and Pennsylvania. His current schedule shows no campaign events for Saturday, just three days before the Florida vote.

But Santorum says his strategy is designed to best marshal his resources for a long effort. He believes conservatives will return to him as an alternative to Romney after an inevitable Gingrich flameout.

“We’re running strong campaigns in several states right now,” Santorum told CNN following the Thursday debate. “We now have the resources. We have raised over twice as much money in the last three weeks as we did in the first nine months. So we’re now having resources to be able to spread our wings a little bit. And we’re going to engage in this campaign”.

“And as we have seen here tonight, there’s a lot of baggage, a lot of problems with the two, quote, front-runners. And I think, as you saw tonight, we’re going to start moving up again. But our time will come,” he said.

Santorum was widely praised by Republicans for pressing the case against Romney and Gingrich in the Thursday debate. He was especially aggressive in arguing that Romney would have trouble challenging President Obama on health care in a general election because the Massachusetts health insurance program implemented under Romney is too similar to the new federal program.

And he drew loud applause by claiming the moral high ground after a long and bitter exchange between Romney and Gingrich over Romney’s wealth and Gingrich’s work for Freddie Mac.

Santorum’s campaign also released schedules showing Florida campaign events through Monday — a long lead time for a campaign that has typically offered guidance on the candidate’s schedule for only 24 hours at a time.

That may be designed to signal Santorum’s intention to quickly return to the trail after a trip to Pennsylvania.

And there is new indication that an independent political action committee running ads on Santorum’s behalf — the Red, White and Blue Fund — has no intention of backing off in coming days.

Investor Foster Friess, a lead contributor to the PAC, told The Wall Street Journal that he plans to fund ads for Santorum in states that vote after Florida.

“I’m committed to Rick Santorum, and I’m going to be giving more to Rick Santorum,” Friess told the Journal. “It’s just a matter of when and how much.”

On Bloomberg TV Friday, Friess said he believes Santorum will become a front-runner soon. But he also said he had “high admiration” for Romney and Gingrich — and suggested that if Santorum becomes president, he should appoint Romney to head his economic policy.

“Anybody who’s going to run against Obama, I’ve got an open check book for,” he said when asked if he would contribute to a Republican nominee other than Santorum.

By  |  11:42 AM ET, 01/27/2012

 
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