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Caliendo: Romney Has A Lot Of Work To Do After Iowa

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Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney won the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses by eight points. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 01/04/12 1:54 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — Political analyst Stephen Caliendo says Mitt Romney has a lot of work to do after winning the Iowa Caucus by just eight points, and Rick Santorum can expect to have “a target on his back.”

Romney beat Santorum by eight points in the caucuses Tuesday. CBS News reports it was the closest Iowa caucus since the modern caucuses began in 1976.

Santorum won the support of 30,007 caucus-goers, giving him 25 percent support, while Romney won 30,015 votes — also 25 percent, CBS News reported. Ron Paul came in third with 21 percent.

Caliendo, a professor at North Central College in Naperville, said on the CBS 2 Morning News that the fact that Romney came so close to losing the caucus in Iowa is evidence of his newfound conservative views not flying with the socially and religious conservative electorate there.

“It also speaks to the fact that we have so many people in the race, and so many people who have conservative credentials that are greater than his. You’d rather win by eight votes than lose by eight votes – no question about that – but really just being in the top bunch is what’s most important,” Caliendo said. “He’s got a lot of work to do, though.”

State Treasurer Dan Rutherford is heading up Romney’s campaign in Illinois. He says the goal of Romney’s campaign was to place in the top three in the Iowa caucuses.

The Iowa campaign was significantly scaled back from Romney’s 2008 showing, both in budget and manpower.

But Rutherford says that is not the case with other primary stops.

“Governor Romney has himself an organization in place. He’s got the financial resources to go – New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida. We’re in the ballot of Illinois. That has to be concluded by this week and then you move on,” Rutherford said.

As for Santorum, a devout Roman Catholic and social conservative, Caliendo says he likely won’t be as much of a factor in New Hampshire, where fiscal issues are paramount. Still, Santorum’s rapid rise in the polls means he will find himself attacked by other candidates.

“I think he’ll be more of a player in South Carolina,” Caliendo said. “He’ll be somewhat of a player in New Hampshire. He should raise some money this week, and that will help. That will be important, because he’s a candidate who doesn’t have as much money as some of the others. He’s just the most recent social conservative to sort of rise to the top, and it was fortunate for him that he rose at the time that he did, because now he has a target on his back, and folks are going to be gunning for him.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

Santorum, a former U.S. Senator, has said he is looking forward to New Hampshire. His Illinois campaign political director, Jon Zahm, responded to questions about his candidates’ long term viability.

Zahm says the candidate believes an impressive showing in Iowa will help what’s already been done in preparation for next week’s New Hampshire primary.

“He’s been there 30 times,” says Zahm. “He has more endorsements from sitting state representatives in New Hampshire than anybody but Mitt Romney. The ground game in New Hampshire is already established and rooted.”

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, Santorum long polled in the single digits in Iowa until a few weeks ago, and Zahm attributes that in part to the downfall of Herman Cain. Zahm says he at one time supported Cain, but he and many of those who shared his views gave their support to Santorum.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers Tuesday were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Caliendo said.

“Newt Gingrich is somebody who I think has a lot of national recognition, good chops – conservative chops – he fought the liberals in the Clinton administration and claimed some victories; a good debater for the most part,” he said. “But he was a victim of some negative campaigning that tore him down. It’s also very difficult for somebody who has his personal history to do well with Evangelical Christians.”

As for Perry, Caliendo says he will likely withdraw from the race soon, and he is not likely to poll well in New Hampshire.

Caliendo said he expected Bachmann to stay in the race as an “ideological purist… who’s committed to her cause,” but Bachmann decided to withdraw later Wednesday.

Topinka: GOP Candidate Infighting Could Be Disastrous
WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports Illinois Comptroller and former Illinois GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka said she thought Iowa might come out this way, with Romney and Santorum at the top and Paul close behind.

“But my concern is overall, that I don’t think Rick Santorum, nor Ron Paul, have the wherewithal to go the distance,” she said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Topinka says Republican primary infighting is easing the campaign path for President Barack Obama.

“You’ve basically softened him up, so all you have to do is just play these things back. You don’t even have to create,” she said.

Topinka likens Obama campaign forces to tsunami, and says she would hate to be facing what is in front of Romney.

For more about Stephen Caliendo, click here.

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