Santorum: No regrets about competing in New Hampshire

Former Sen. Rick Santorum and his wife Karen Santorum greet supporters after speaking at a primary night gathering after the polls closed in the nation's first primary on January 10, 2012 at Derryfield Restaurant in Manchester, N.H. After a strong second place finish in the Iowa Caucus, Santorum dropped in many polls leading up to the first primary and was hovering between third and fourth place in most polls as voting closed.

MERRIMACK, N.H. -- Even after enduring verbal lashings from prospective voters, hosting about a dozen contentious town halls and failing to make a serious play for first place, Rick Santorum says he has no regrets about his decision to compete in the Granite State.

"I've known for a long time that New Hampshire is full of tough questions. People up here take their politics very seriously and they study the issues very carefully," Santorum told a National Journal/CBS News reporter as he shook hands with last-minute voters at a polling station at James Mastricola Upper Middle School on Tuesday evening. "So really, no surprises here."

Asked whether he regrets coming to New Hampshire to compete in the Republican presidential primary, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania answered: "No! No. We feel very good. We think we got a lot of positive responses."

Full New Hampshire primary results
New Hampshire Exit Poll
Republican Primary Election Center

After Santorum scored an upset second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses last week, Santorum has been tailed by an aggressive band of reporters and camera crews wherever he's gone in New Hampshire. Every day, newspaper and website headlines question whether Santorum can consolidate the support of anti-Mitt Romney conservatives or whether his victory in Iowa was a fluke. As the votes were counted in New Hampshire on Tuesday, Santorum finished in fourth or fifth place, short of the top-tier finish he had hoped for.

On his last day of campaigning, Santorum visited the polling place with his wife, Karen, one of his sons, and a lone aide by his side. He brightly introduced himself to voters: "Hi, I'm Rick Santorum! I'd appreciate your support!" Their responses ranged from indifference to enthusiasm at meeting the candidate in the flesh.

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It was reminiscent of how Santorum won over voters in Iowa, when hardly anyone was paying attention to his campaign -- one by one, and with dogged persistence. "Not my first rodeo," Santorum said, repeating a phrase he uses often on the campaign trail when asked how he's acclimated to the scrutiny. "I've been involved in hectic races before, I've been involved in big event. Experience helps. "

To avoid the hoopla of recent days, his campaign did not release where Santorum would be going on Primary Day except to a small group of reporters. Asked how he expects to compete with Romney and the front-runner's considerable resources in upcoming primaries, Santorum chose to remain optimistic. "We'll start picking up those resources too and be able to get out there. We run pretty lean and mean," he said, and, as he left the high school chowing down on a slice of cold pizza, he seemed to mean it.

Full CBS News coverage: Rick Santorum

  • Naureen Khan On Twitter»

    Naureen Khan covers the 2012 presidential campaign for CBS News and National Journal.

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