How Ron Paul And Rick Santorum Performed In S.C.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports on the also-rans in Saturday's South Carolina primary.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Two candidates who never really caught fire in South Carolina were former Senator Rick Santorum, and congressman Ron Paul. Neither will acknowledge that it's now a two-man race between Gingrich and Romney. And each says the campaign goes on.

NPR's Don Gonyea reports.

Other than Mitt Romney, the candidate dealt the biggest blow in South Carolina was Rick Santorum. He came in third, with 17 percent. But last night, at an election party at The Citadel military college, he found comfort in one fact in this unpredictable year.

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RICK SANTORUM: Well, three states, three winners - what a great country.

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DON GONYEA, BYLINE: He is referring to an Iowa win for Santorum - though that wasn't sorted out until two days ago, depriving him of some potential momentum. New Hampshire went for Romney and now, Gingrich gets one.

Santorum had counted on South Carolina's large evangelical population being in his camp, but Gingrich won that group.

For Ron Paul, this was never a state where he expected his libertarian view of government to play well. He spoke to supporters in Columbia last night.

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RON PAUL: Thank you. Thank you. Sounds like a lot of enthusiasm. I love it.

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GONYEA: Paul then made it clear that he sees the race as far, far from over.

PAUL: Also, there's been now three elections, and a total of 37 delegates have been chosen so far - less than 2 percent; like, 1.5 percent. This is the beginning of a long, hard slog.

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GONYEA: Paul did find something to cheer in getting 13 percent. He pointed out that his vote total is more than four times the number he got in the South Carolina primary during his 2008 run for the presidency.

And for Ron Paul supporter Jeff Mattox, it's a victory that Paul's message is reaching more people.

JEFF MATTOX: So the message is growing. And the more - once you get the message that Dr. Paul is talking about, you won't go back again.

GONYEA: The Florida primary is next. But Paul is already looking beyond that - to a series of caucuses in Nevada and elsewhere, where he likes his chances. Santorum will be in Florida.

At last night's rally, I asked supporter Gresham Barrett, a former South Carolina congressman, how an underfunded underdog can compete in the Sunshine State.

GRESHAM BARRETT: Well, that's it - I mean, you just think. It's a bigger state; a lot more organization, a lot more money. I mean, who knows? I mean, I don't know who's ahead. But I know one thing: Nobody will outwork Rick Santorum.

GONYEA: But breaking through will get even harder for Santorum, especially if the Gingrich-Romney rematch in Florida becomes a dominant storyline.

Don Gonyea, NPR News, Charleston.

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