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Santorum hits rockier road in New Hampshire

By Raelyn Johnson, CNN
updated 5:33 AM EST, Wed January 11, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Former Pennsylvania senator finishes out of the top tier after an almost-upset in Iowa
  • Positions on abortion, same-sex marriage aren't as popular with state's more moderate base
  • Even so, crowds packed into libraries, barns and mom-and-pop diners to meet him

Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN) -- After falling eight votes shy of a major upset of Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, Rick Santorum tried to take that momentum into New Hampshire but hit a bumpy road in the Granite State.

Despite his disappointing finish in Tuesday's primary he vowed to fight on.

After congratulating Mitt Romney on his victory, Santorum told a crowd of fervent supporters, "We wanted to respect the process and wanted to respect the fact we would campaign in every state. States good for us and states that are tougher. You are running in a state like New Hampshire that had a lot of folks here and spending time and money we knew it would be tough."

With most of the vote counted, Santorum trailed Newt Gingrich for the fifth spot. But he saw opportunities ahead.

"We have a campaign that has a message and a messenger that can deliver what we need, which is first and foremost to defeat (President Barack) Obama," Santorum said.

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"Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opportunity in this race. We have an opportunity to be the true conservative. The true conservative who can go out and do what is necessary to win this race."

Over the course of seven days, Santorum's conservative positions, including being anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage, were met with criticism by a more moderate New Hampshire base.

At a town hall meeting on Faith, Family and Freedom in Dublin, New Hampshire, Santorum sparred with college students over the issue of same-sex marriage, comparing it to polygamy.

"Are we saying everyone should have the right to marry?" Santorum asked when a student brought up the issue last week. "So anyone can marry anybody else. ... So anybody can marry several people?" At the end of the event, Santorum left the stage to a chorus of boos from the crowd.

Over the weekend, the former Pennsylvania senator made controversial comments about education, calling President Barack Obama's education goals an agenda of "hubris" and saying he was "outraged" that the president thinks "every child in America should go to college."

Despite being met by protesters, Santorum campaigned in New Hampshire the same way he did in Iowa, with retail politics and town halls. Crowds of people packed into libraries, barns and mom-and-pop diners to meet the self-proclaimed "true Reagan Republican." At several campaign stops, fire marshals were called to keep order at exits and control crowds.

Santorum and Romney have gone back and forth debating spending -- Romney criticizing Santorum's spending record while in Congress and Santorum criticizing the former Massachusetts governor's spending to support his presidential bid.

The next task for Romney is South Carolina, where polls show support for Santorum has soared in recent weeks. A CNN/Time/ORC International Poll released Friday showed Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a tie for second.

A day before the New Hampshire primary, Santorum made a prediction in Derry, saying, "It'll be Mitt Romney against Rick Santorum, and we'll win this race."

"It's not going to be (secured during) this primary or the next," Santorum said. "We'll have several races down the road. This field will narrow. It will be a one-on-one race."

Santorum will head to South Carolina on Wednesday. He was in the state just two days earlier to receive the endorsement of longtime evangelical leader Gary Bauer.

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