2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

2012 Elections: News, Analysis, Videos, and Breaking on the Presidential Election, Local Elections, and More

Complete coverage of the 2012 election

Santorum in South Florida Ahead of Tampa Debate

Candidate spends time in South Florida before Monday's debate in Tampa

By Gilma Avalos
|  Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012  |  Updated 11:02 AM EDT
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Rick Santorum makes a stop in South Florida ahead of Monday's debate in Tampa.

Rick Santorum makes a stop in South Florida ahead of Monday's debate in Tampa.

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Rick Santorum spent Sunday afternoon in church, making a stop at the Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach where he told reporters he's still in the Republican presidential race despite coming in a distant third in the South Carolina primary.

"This race is just starting," said Santorum, who lost out to Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney the day before.

Inside he talked about family values, his strong pro-life stance on the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a Supreme Court decision that supports a woman's right to choose.

His message was received with applause and cheers from congregants, including Buddy Helen, who was there with his daughter Sarah who made a patriotic tie out of duct tape for Santorum.

"I'm looking for a president that has an ear open for God, that has an ear open for Jesus," Helen said.

This is exactly the crowd of supporters Santorum hopes to get to the polls in Florida. Still a concern for some Republican voters is whether Santorum's got the resources to take the Sunshine State.

"If you looked at what happened in South Carolina, pretty much that first debate really propelled Newt into a victory," Santorum said. "It wasn't the money that was spent, Romney spent a lot more money than he did. It's people taking a look at the candidates."

Romney seems to have taken a hit following that debate, with opponents criticizing him for dancing around the issue of releasing his taxes. He vowed to release his 2010 returns and 2011 estimates on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the come-from-behind winner of South Carolina's primary, Gingrich, is hoping to ride that momentum to Florida. He explained why he's a better candidate than Romney on NBC's "Meet thè Press" Sunday.

"I think I'm the person best prepared to know how to get this country back on the right track, and I'm the person who's tough enough to take every single hit and keep coming. And I'll do the same thing as president," Gingrich said.

And though Ron Paul says he's still in the race, at a rally in Coral Springs, Santorum excluded Paul when he talked about the GOP hopefuls.

"We have three candidates in this race, three candidates who have a chance to become president of the United States," he said.

The Florida primary is on January 31st and hopefuls are now looking ahead to Monday night's NBC debate from Tampa, because if South Carolina is any indication, success in the debates can definitely influence voters still on the fence.

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