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After a heated battle in Iowa, Republican presidential candidates look forward to New Hampshire.

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Romney, Santorum, Paul finish strong in Iowa; game on in New Hampshire

After a heated battle in Iowa, Republican presidential candidates look forward to New Hampshire.

After Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney topped the Iowa caucus last night, with Ron Paul coming in a close third, New Hampshire all of a sudden just mattered a lot more than it did 24 hours ago.

Romney has a dominant 20-30 point lead in almost every Granite State poll, and many candidates had written it off, but now it seems like New Hampshire may determine who will be the chief anti-Romney candidate going forward. 

Can anyone emerge as the chief anti-Romney candidate and also put together an organization on the fly to go the distance?

And can that person be Santorum? 

“C.S. Lewis said a friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words,” Santorum said last night, referring to his wife. But Santorum could have been referring to the state in which he visited all 99 counties and held 400 town hall meetings. 

Santorum said the three words he heard most in Iowa were, “Welcome to Iowa.” And last night, Iowans welcomed Santorum as a serious contender in this presidential contest.

Santorum told Iowans, “You have taken the first step in taking back this country.” 

And he spoke movingly about how he saw his immigrant grandfather come to America from Italy and build a better life for his family by working in Pennsylvania coal mines. 

He spoke about how when he saw his grandfather’s “enormous” hands at his funeral, he realized that “those hands dug freedom for me.”

Santorum cast himself as a populist, working class fighter for an America Obama does not understand and reminded many of Pat Buchanan’s candidacies in the 1990s. Buchanan won New Hampshire in 1996, but Bob Dole went on to win the nomination. 

Many have seen parallels between 1996 and 2012 and Romney and Dole. 

Romney continued to act like the front-runner by giving an election night speech that was taken mostly from his standard stump speech in which he contrasts himself directly with President Obama while bypassing his GOP rivals. 

“This is a campaign night where America wins,” Romney said, referring to Santorum and Paul as winners as well. 

Romney, citing his stump speech that speaks of American exceptionalism, said this election is “really an election about the soul of America” and contrasted himself as the champion of a merit based society as opposed to Obama’s “entitlement society.” 

And while Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would go back to Texas to “reassess” his campaign and Michele Bachmann seems to not have a rationale for going forward unless it is to siphon social conservative votes away from those candidates who are not Romney, Paul and Gingrich seemed like they are not going away anytime soon.

“Government is not supposed to run our lives or spend our money,” Paul said, noting that he was one of two candidates who had the resources and infrastructure to run a national campaign.

Paul, in keeping with an anti-interventionist message that has acquired for him a dedicated base of fervent supporters, urged his audience to “beware of the military industrial complex” and cited “Mr. Republican” Robert Taft in warning against entangling engagements abroad. 

“This momentum is going to continue and this movement is going to continue and we are going to keep scoring, just as we have tonight,” Paul said, perhaps a reference to his campaign’s plans to organize.

Gingrich also said his campaign would forge ahead to New Hampshire and South Carolina. 

“We are at the beginning of a campaign,” Gingrich said, before congratulating Santorum because he “waged a great, positive campaign.” Though Gingrich did not mention Romney by name, his missive was aimed squarely at the former Massachusetts governor, who Gingrich said is not a Reagan conservative but a “Massachusetts moderate who will be pretty good at managing the decay” of America. 

Romney and his SuperPAC spent millions assailing Gingrich in Iowa and decimated the lead that he had in Iowa only a month ago. 

Gingrich said he would go forward and focus on a message of “fixing the courts and resetting the culture” and “reestablish the work ethic” in addition to speaking about American exceptionalism and how America’s culture needs to be reset.

But, Gingrich will probably be the chief attack dog against Messrs. Romney and Paul as well. He said, last night, that “Paul’s views on foreign policy are stunningly dangerous for the survival of the country.”

In a reference to Paul’s dovish position on Iran, Gingrich asked, “Why would you think if they could get access to a nuclear weapon, they wouldn’t use it?”

Gingrich said a nuclear armed Iran was the “most frightening thing we can confront.”

“If they are going to live in safety, they have to live in a world in which there are no nuclear weapons,” Gingrich said. 

Gingrich predicted a nomination fight that would not be over soon. 

“This is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning in New Hampshire and will go on for a few months,” Gingrich said. 

So with the race reset, Santorum, who has visited New Hampshire more than anyone besides former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who Santorum joked was “living in New Hampshire” like Santorum lived in Iowa, will go to the Granite State,  a state in which his campaign manager is from and has ran successful campaigns. 

Romney will try to battle the lofty expectations in New Hampshire that have come from his dominant poll numbers.

And Huntsman, who has hammered home his message of ending the country’s economic deficit and trust deficits by tacking crony capitalism, awaits them both after a week in which he has seen overflow and energetic crowds at his campaign events in New Hampshire.

As Santorum said before he started his speech, “game on.” 

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Written By

Tony Lee edits The Chase 2012 section and writes on politics and culture for HUMAN EVENTS. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. E-mail: ALEE (at) EaglePub.com

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