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Mitt's moment

"Mitt's moment" Continued...

"This campaign went downhill," Santorum said. "We didn't get into the melee of the negativism. The American public does not want to see two or three candidates get into a mud wrestling match where everyone walks away dirty."

Santorum also refuted Gingrich's assertion that Gingrich is the lone true conservative in the campaign who can win. He promised to continue to run an issue-oriented campaign by tying the healthcare law Massachusetts passed under Romney's governorship to the healthcare law congress passed under Obama's watch.

"If you want a strong principled conservative who's not going to be the issue in the campaign, who is going to make Barack Obama the issue in this campaign, vote for me," Santorum said.

He also declared that his campaign brought in more than $200,000 in donations on Tuesday. While having raised only $920,000 in the last quarter of 2011, Santorum reportedly hauled in $4.2 million in January since his win in Iowa.

But he still lags far behind in money and infrastructure to Romney. During the last three months of 2011, Romney took in approximately $24.3 million.

Meanwhile, Gingrich raised $9.8 million from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. But the former speaker's campaign spent $8.1 million during that time.

Yet even Romney trails Obama's fundraising machine. While the Florida primary results came in Tuesday night, the president appeared at a fundraising dinner at a private residence in Chevy Chase, Md. With nearly 70 guests in attendance, tickets for the dinner started at $35,800 per couple.

Romney took on Obama Tuesday night, contrasting his leadership experience in business and as an Olympic organizer to the president's three years in the White House.

"Mr. President, you were elected to lead, you chose to follow, and now it's time for you to get out of the way," Romney said. "We will build an America where 'hope' is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."

But as much as he would like to focus just on Obama, Romney still is not able to declare himself the formal Republican nominee.

He had a decisive win in Florida. But with just 84 committed delegates out of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination, this race is still in its early stages. And, if his rivals' words on Tuesday are any indication, Romney still could have a long fight on his hands.

"We are in third place when it comes to delegates," Ron Paul told his supporters in Nevada on Tuesday night. "That is what really counts. And we've only gotten started."

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee is WORLD's Washington Bureau chief. As a reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, he was embedded with a National Guard unit in Iraq. He also once worked in the press office of Sen. Lamar Alexander.

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