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Rick Santorum’s Gingrich Problem

Last week, there were rumors of a “nonaggression pact” between Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. The two candidates are good friends, and they both share the goal of stopping Mitt Romney.

But after last night, it’s clear Santorum’s obstacle to the nomination isn’t just Romney; it’s also Gingrich. While Romney finished at 39 percent in New Hampshire, exceeding expectations, and winning an unprecedented victory, Gingrich and Santorum virtually tied at 4th and 5th place, respectively.

Gingrich was expected to fade away on his own, and Santorum was supposed to capitalize on the momentum from Iowa to have a decent showing in New Hampshire (at least better than Newt’s) and a strong finish in South Carolina. If Gingrich had dropped out of the race after he bombed in Iowa, and Santorum had managed to pick up his supporters in New Hampshire, then Santorum could have ended up in third place as opposed to a disappointing fifth.

The bar was set low for Santorum in New Hampshire. But ending up in single digits, and coming in fifth after Gingrich – even by a negligible .5 percent margin – was slightly below expectations. Now Santorum can’t just be focused on competing with Romney for the nomination. He’ll first have to definitively beat out Gingrich for the conservative not-Romney slot. He’s now neck-and-neck with Gingrich in South Carolina, with Romney 10 points ahead of both of them. That means any Santorum-Gingrich truce – even a tacit one – can’t continue if Santorum wants the nomination.


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