Santorum Sees Opening in Florida’s ‘Neutral Turf’

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said he may fare better against rival Newt Gingrich on Florida’s “neutral turf” than in “Newt’s backyard” of South Carolina.

“Leading into Florida yesterday we were sitting in second place in Florida,” Santorum said today in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union.”

While “Florida is a tough state for everybody,” it represents an opportunity for Santorum because he’s a “solid conservative,” the former Pennsylvania senator said.

Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, won 40 percent of the vote in South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary yesterday. Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, ran second with 28 percent, with 99 percent of the vote counted. Santorum had 17 percent, followed by U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas with 13 percent. The next primary will be held in Florida on Jan. 31.

“I would disagree with Newt that he is the conservative standard bearer,” said Santorum. “He is a very high risk candidate.”

In a separate interview on ABC’s ‘This Week,’ Santorum said that he would allay the concerns of candidates who aren’t satisfied with Romney or Gingrich.

“A lot of conservatives are very concerned about the choice between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, because in their opinion and in mine, that’s not a choice between a conservative and a moderate,” Santorum said. “It’s a choice between a moderate and an erratic conservative, someone who on a lot of the major issues has been just wrong.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Joshua Zumbrun in Washington at jzumbrun@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva in Washington at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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