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Santorum challenges Romney despite minimal budget, staff

Rick Santorum nearly tied with Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus, Tuesday, but can Santorum compete with Romney without a massive budget? The latest figures showed Santorum had less than $200,000 in his campaign account while Romney had $14.7 million.

By Associated Press / January 4, 2012

Rick Santorum supporter attends a campaign stop at Rockingham County Nursing Home in Brentwood, New Hampshire Wednesday. Santorum scored a major victory by taking Iowa's Republican nominating contest right down to the wire on Tuesday, but has a significant disadvantage to Mitt Romney when it comes to campaign budgets.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Rick Santorum looked Wednesday to establish himself as the top conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, one day after jolting the Republican presidential race by coming within eight votes of winning the Iowa caucuses.

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Romney barely defeated Santorum in Iowa, where the party held its first contest in the race to find a challenger to President Barack Obama. Until recently, Santorum had been polling in the low single-digits and was seen as having little hope of being a top contender.

Romney's win helped solidify his standing as front-runner going into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, where he is heavily favored. But Romney has not been able to raise his support beyond the 25 percent level in national opinion polls. He won just under 25 percent of the vote in Iowa.

Some Republicans see Romney, a former governor of the liberal state of Massachusetts, as insufficiently conservative on abortion, health care and other issues. As other conservative candidates drop out, that could create an opening for Santorum, an outspoken opponent of abortion and gay marriage.

The Republican field narrowed some Wednesday with congresswoman Michele Bachmann dropping out of the race after last-place showing among active candidates in Iowa.

But Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, has significant hurdles to climb if he hopes to prove that he is not the latest in a series of challengers who briefly topped polls only to fade quickly — like Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. After hinting that he might drop out, Perry announced Wednesday he would stay in the race. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman skipped the Iowa caucuses in hopes of making his mark in next Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary.

It will be difficult for Santorum to recreate his success in Iowa, where he had campaigned almost nonstop for months. Santorum has only a skeleton staff in other states and has very little money.

Romney is much better placed in terms of campaign staff and financing. He has campaigned as the candidate best-positioned to defeat Obama. On Wednesday, he picked up the endorsement of the party's 2008 presidential nominee, John McCain.

"The time has arrived for Republicans to choose a presidential nominee, a new standard bearer who has the ability and determination to defeat President Obama," McCain said.

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