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Santorum: Low turnout shows curbed enthusiasm for Romney, Gingrich

February 05, 2012|By Michael Finnegan
(Bryan Oller / Associated…)

Rick Santorum’s dismal fourth-place finish in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday further narrowed his unlikely path to the Republican presidential nomination, but Sunday the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania placed his hopes for a comeback on upcoming contests in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

Santorum’s effort to rally the party’s conservative wing behind him has foundered since his surprise win a month ago in the Iowa caucuses, a victory of diminished value since it came only in a recount nearly three weeks after the fact.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Santorum told anchor Chris Wallace that national front runner Mitt Romney and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas had an edge in Nevada and the states that held primaries in January “because they have spent a lot of time and money not just in this year's campaign, but for the last four years in working in those states.”

“Now, we're getting to the states where people don't have the natural advantage,” he said.

Preliminary results found Romney winning Nevada by a wide margin, with Newt Gingrich in second place and Paul in third.

The Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado contests on Tuesday offer little more than bragging rights, but Santorum badly needs any momentum he can get after losses in the New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida primaries.

“I think we're going to show improvement,” he said. “This race is a long, long way from being over.”

Santorum said he expects to do “exceptionally well” in the nonbinding primary in Missouri, where Gingrich failed to qualify for the ballot.

He also pressed his argument that President Obama will win reelection if Republicans pick Romney or Gingrich as their nominee. He said low turnout in Nevada and Florida reflects a lack of enthusiasm for either Republican.

Santorum said he would offer voters in the general election a bolder contrast with Obama, because he has taken more conservative stands than Romney and Gingrich have on immigration, global warming, healthcare and the 2008 Wall Street bailout.

“Governor Romney and Speaker Gingrich simply are -- do not present a very good contrast with President Obama, do not reflect the conservative values that are going to be important for rallying our base,” Santorum said.

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