Santorum is focused on making major pushes in the Feb. 28 Michigan primary and in Ohio on March 6, where his campaign believes his blue-collar roots will match up well against front-runner Mitt Romney.
Without the money or organizational structure of Romney’s campaign, Santorum is taking a stand in states that are likely to respond to his socially conservative everyman message to avoid a repeat of his experience after Iowa, when a similar bounce evaporated quickly in New Hampshire against a superior organization in a moderate state.
“We are smart enough to know that this is no time to celebrate,” said John Brabender, a senior strategist for Santorum. “Tuesday night expanded the playing field. The more you have success in states, the less dependent you are on ads. And people are paying attention. But we have to pick our battles.”
Stuart Roy, a spokesman for an independent group supporting Santorum, said officials spent Wednesday taking calls from donors and adding new states to their target list for this month and for Super Tuesday contests on March 6.
“We are taking a hard look at states that may have previously been viewed as completely uphill,” he said.
Roy would not cite specific states, but he said that “a couple of the Southern states are in play since Romney’s Northeastern politics don’t play well there. And although Gingrich may look a bit like Paula Deen, politically he’s no Southerner.”
Those states are likely to be Georgia and Tennessee. The only other Southern state to hold a contest between now and Super Tuesday is Virginia, but Santorum failed to qualify for the ballot there.
In a sign of what’s sure to come, Romney went on the attack Wednesday, painting both Santorum and Newt Gingrich as Washington insiders.
“Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, they’ve spent a lot of time in Washington. And during their years, we spent more money than we were taking in,” Romney said at a campaign stop in Atlanta. During Santorum’s years in Washington, Romney continued, “the government grew by 80 percent, and he voted to raise the debt ceiling five times.”
Santorum said Wednesday that he’s been steadily collecting money over the past two weeks to fight back against Romney and that Tuesday’s results show he can withstand an onslaught.
“Mitt Romney is saying that I’m not a conservative,” Santorum said Wednesday morning on “Fox and Friends.” “That’s almost laughable for a moderate Massachusetts governor who’s been for big government programs. . . . Look, we’ve got the best record, and he’s just going to have to live with that record, and we’re going to make it a part of this campaign.”