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Rick Santorum's Challenge After Iowa Is Ramping Up His Shoestring Operation

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The close second-place Iowa finish that has given Rick Santorum's candidacy new life may have been a victory for his low budgeted, four-aides-and-a-truck operation, but that doesn't mean that the former senator wants to maintain a shoestring operation as the presidential primary race takes him to New Hampshire and beyond. There was a reason why third-place finisher Ron Paul felt he had an advantage coming out of Iowa, and he made sure to cite it in his post-caucus speech: "You know we talk about it...you know, one of three tickets out, which is obviously true. And one of two that can actually run a national campaign and raise the money. But there's nobody else that has people working hard and enthusiastic and believe in something."

Which isn't to say that Santorum supporters aren't enthusiastic and have beliefs. But like it or not, money and manpower now matter a great deal. Mitt Romney obviously outclasses the field in terms of cash on hand and super PAC support (on the matter of comparing Romney's organization to Santorum, this political cartoon basically says it all), but Paul's no slouch -- his "moneybombs" are legendary for providing quick cash infusions whenever one is necessary.

Here, Santorum is playing catch-up with the new top tier. And he has a lot of catching up to do. For example, if we look ahead to the Michigan primary -- where Romney will play the heavy favorite -- what does Santorum's operation look like? Grand Rapids Press reporter Jim Harger says it looks like this:

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum scored big in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night. But his campaign for Michigan's Feb. 28 presidential primary has been limited to the Facebook Page managed by Grandville resident Peter Ackerman.

“I've been a supporter of Rick Santorum for a long time,” said Ackerman, a 34-year-old industrial supply salesman who became an admirer of the former Pennsylvania senator while growing up and living in the Philadelphia area.

But the Grandville father of two toddlers said he's not ready to leave his day job for the type of campaign Santorum will have to wage in Michigan to contend for the nomination.

Ackerman has no bumper stickers, yard signs or buttons to hand out. In fact, he's never been involved in a political campaign or the Republican Party.

For Ackerman -- who's not to be confused with the Peter Ackerman behind the shady and secretly-funded Americans Elect thingy -- Santorum support is "a hobby." And that won't get it done. Fortunately for Santorum, nothing succeeds like a little success. Jonathan Martin reported Thursday morning that Santorum has raised "over $1 million" in the first 24 hours since the Iowa Caucus -- most of it in the form of online donations. In fact, Martin reported that "the online traffic was so intense on the campaign's website that it crashed momentarily and prompted the campaign to switch servers."

And the Santorum campaign says that their operation may expand past the few dedicated staff and scattered hobbyists in a hurry:

Of course, the biggest potential influx could be right around the corner. As noted Wednesday, next weekend, a gathering of social conservatives with huddle in Brenham, Texas, for an "emergency meeting" to determine which candidate they will throw their support behind as the official alternative to Romney. Santorum should be the natural choice, but there are complications, beginning with Newt Gingrich's decision to remain in the race, and, more significantly, the fact that Perry has elected to remain in and compete in South Carolina. As Martin noted, "Many of the individuals on the host list attended a previous closed-door session with Rick Perry this summer."

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