Santorum on Gingrich's campaign: "It didn't work"

Rick Santorum at a Las Vegas, NV rally after the polls closed in Florida's primary. January 31, 2011 CBS News

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum held his Florida election night rally not in Florida, but in Nevada, the state to hold the next nominating contest

Nevada holds its caucuses on Saturday. After his distant third-place finish in the Sunshine state, Santorum told a Las Vegas crowd, "We're going to have a little different result than what we saw in Florida."

Santorum continues to paint himself as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who added Florida as his second victory in a month, along with New Hampshire.

Santorum said Newt Gingrich "had his opportunity" to be the conservative nominee after a big win in South Carolina, but added, "it didn't work."

Meanwhile, Gingrich promised his supporters that he would keep his campaign going until the Republican convention this summer.

In Las Vegas, the former senator congratulated Romney for his "resounding" victory in Florida, but went on to chide both Romney and Gingrich for creating a Republican "mud wrestling match" in the Sunshine state.

"Republicans can do better," Santorum said. "We can do better than the discussion and the dialogue and the accusations that were going on in the state of Florida," referring to the harsh attacks both Romney and Gingrich employed in the last week.

Full Florida primary results
Florida exit poll
Republican delegate scorecard
Full state-by-state GOP primary results

"The American public does not want to see two or three candidates get into a mud wrestling match where everyone gets dirty," Santorum said, adding that "What we saw in the last few weeks in the state of Florida is not going to help us win this election" against President Obama in the fall.

The former senator is using his narrow Iowa caucus victory and support among religious conservatives to maintain his relevancy in the GOP nominating contest.

Despite an uphill battle to win the Florida primary, Santorum campaigned in the Sunshine state hoping to be a serious contender. But after spending nearly a week in Florida, a state where the winner wins all 50 delegates, his polling never moved above low double-digits.

Santorum left the campaign trail Saturday to go home to Pennsylvania to gather his tax returns for release, but then his daughter Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia, which kept him off the campaign trail for most of the weekend. Instead of returning to Florida, he headed to states with upcoming nominating contests, including Nevada, Colorado and Missouri.

Full CBS News coverage: Rick Santorum

Mitt Romney scores big win in Florida primary
Triumphant Romney pivots back to attacking Obama
Gingrich: My campaign is the "people's campaign"
Ron Paul sets sights on Nevada caucuses

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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