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Santorum rejoices in in his GOP caucus sweep, but he faces major challenges in upcoming states
ALLEN, Texas (AP) ' One day after Rick Santorum's startling breakthrough in the presidential race, his few aides decamped to distant states to start building campaign organizations from scratch. It was evidence of his challenge in converting sudden momentum into victories in the rush of contests ahead.
"We definitely are the campaign right now with the momentum, the enthusiasm on the ground," the former Pennsylvania senator said Wednesday, hours after capturing Republican caucuses in Minnesota and Colorado and a non-binding primary in Missouri.
"We feel like going forward we're going to have the money we need to make the case we want."
To replenish his coffers, Santorum arranged a weekend of fundraising events in California. He plans to start campaigning in Washington state on Monday, and then Ohio and Michigan in the following days
At the same time, aides conceded he was making little or no effort in the caucuses in Maine that end this weekend, and they are still working on plans for competing in primaries in Michigan and Arizona on Feb. 28, as well as the delegate-rich, 10-state Super Tuesday a week later.
Santorum's caucus successes vaulted him ahead of Newt Gingrich into second place in the competition for Republican National Convention delegates. The Associated Press count showed Mitt Romney leading with 107 delegates, followed by Santorum with 69, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 32 and Texas Rep. Ron Paul with 9.
"I believe that conservatives are beginning to get it, that we provide the best opportunity to beat President Obama, Santorum said, a jab at both Romney and Gingrich.
Yet he came under fresh attack during the day from Romney as a supporter of earmarked federal spending, and a resumption appeared likely soon in the ad wars that so far have worked to the advantage of the better-financed former Massachusetts governor.
"We're always going to have a huge spending gap, but money can't buy people's hearts," said Ron Carey, an unpaid volunteer who was Santorum's chief adviser in Minnesota and whose car served as travelling campaign office.
"He has a huge upside when people get to know him," added Carey, a former state party chairman.
Even so, an AP analysis of year-end spending reports showed Santorum may have to stretch to cover all the states that vote in the next few weeks.
While current figures are not available, he reported that at year's end he had a 10-member campaign payroll at a quarterly cost of $49,000 ' the smallest of any of the Republicans in the race. He also is helped by paid consultants and unpaid volunteers, as are other candidates.
By comparison, Romney reported a 92-member staff and a quarterly payroll of $1.3 million. Gingrich said he had 23 paid aides, at a cost of $279,000, and Paul, who has yet to win a primary or caucus, paid $381,000 for a staff of 33.
President Barack Obama reported a 430-person campaign staff, which cost $4.7 million for the final three months of 2011.
While Santorum plotted his next moves, Romney spoke with reporters in Atlanta, where he said he expects to do better in future contests in winning the votes of conservatives who delivered Santorum his triumphs on Tuesday night.
The former Massachusetts governor said the tea party movement was created to fight Washington insiders who spend too much. Santorum and Gingrich "are the very Republicans who acted like Democrats" when it came to spending in Congress, he said.
For his part, Paul hoped for a breakthrough of his own in Maine, and Gingrich campaigned for a second straight day in Ohio, one of the Super Tuesday states.
Speaking to a small audience of employees at a Jergens metal manufacturing plan in Cleveland, Gingrich said the United States could pay a terrible price if Iran develops nuclear weapons.
"Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it's 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded," he said.
This is not the first time Santorum has awakened to new campaign energy in the 2012 race, and he is not the only contender to have the experience.
He appeared to finish a surprising second in the lead-off Iowa caucuses a month ago, then sank in New Hampshire's primary a week later and seemed to disappear.
Gingrich, too, was the candidate on a roll after he stunned Romney with a double-digit victory in South Carolina on Jan. 21. He was buried in Florida 10 days later under an avalanche of attack ads from Romney and Restore Our Future, an organization that supports him.
Taking note of Santorum's triumphs on Wednesday, Gingrich said the party could convene next summer without any candidate in control, the first that would have happened since 1940.
In a fundraising letter to supporters, Santorum appealed to conservatives and ' in a jab at Gingrich ' likened his situation to the one Ronald Reagan encountered in 1976 when he challenged President Gerald R. Ford for the GOP nomination.
Reagan lost the first eight primaries, Santorum wrote, and "the media and the establishment made fun of his campaign; they said he had no shot, and told him to get out of the race." But then he won several states and carried his campaign into the convention, where he ultimately lost.
Associated Press writers Charles Babington in Cleveland, Phillip Elliott and Stephen Ohlemacher in Washington and Steve Peoples in Atlanta contributed to this story.