Politics

Santorum & Paul Ignore Florida Contest, Focus On Nevada

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LAS VEGAS, NV - JANUARY 31:  Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum greets people as he leaves an election results party for the Florida primary at his Nevada campaign headquarters January 31, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Nevada GOP caucus will be held on February 4. According to early results former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defeated Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to win today's Florida primary. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 31: Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum greets people as he leaves an election results party for the Florida primary at his Nevada campaign headquarters January 31, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Nevada GOP caucus will be held on February 4. According to early results former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney defeated Santorum, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to win today’s Florida primary. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Republicans Ron Paul and Rick Santorum ignored Florida’s primary and campaigned out the west Tuesday, turning their attention to delegate-rich caucus states and vowing to remain in the presidential contest.

While rival Mitt Romney cruised to a commanding win in Florida, Paul and Santorum both spoke to supporters in Nevada, which holds its caucus Saturday. The Texas congressman and Pennsylvania senator campaigned earlier in the day in Colorado, whose caucus is Feb. 7.

Paul skipped Florida completely to focus on caucus states, gambling on the low-cost, high-yield delegate strategy President Barack Obama adopted during the 2008 Democratic contest.

Speaking to a packed ballroom at a casino outside Las Vegas, Paul told supporters he had called Romney to congratulate him on his Florida win.

“I’ll see you soon in the caucus states,” Paul said he told Romney. The crowd cheered loudly.

Paul planned to spend the rest of the week in Nevada and then head to Minnesota, whose caucus is Feb. 7. He campaigned last weekend in Maine, whose caucuses begin Feb. 4 and continue until Feb. 11.

“The message of this election is loud and clear and it has to be translated into proper political action and attending the caucuses and sending a message that we want more freedoms back and we don’t want more government,” Paul said.

Santorum, in Las Vegas, warned supporters that the bitter Florida battle between Romney and Newt Gingrich had hurt the party and that it was imperative for the campaign to move forward.

“Republicans can do better. We can do better than the discussion and the dialogue that were going on in the state of Florida and where this campaign went downhill,” Santorum said of the infighting that reached a fever pitch in recent days.

“What we’ve seen the last few weeks in Florida is not something that is going to help us win this election. Let’s put those issues behind us and focus on the real issue, which is defeating Barack Obama,” he said. “We’re not going to do that by mudslinging.”

icon video Santorum & Paul Ignore Florida Contest, Focus On Nevada WEB EXTRA: Rick Santorum Speaks To Supporters In Nevada

Left unsaid are the considerable obstacles facing Paul and Santorum.

Santorum’s standing in the field has fallen precipitously since he eked out a win in the Iowa caucuses last month. His campaign is bleeding money and has only a skeletal organization in states with upcoming contests.

Santorum raised more than $4 million since his surprise showing in Iowa, and aides said he had more than $1 million in the bank. He started spending some of that on television ads in Colorado and Nevada with an ad that likened Gingrich’s views to Obama and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

Paul’s intensely loyal base of supporters can be counted on to stay with him as the race proceeds. But Paul hasn’t won a single contest and his views — particularly on foreign policy — are far outside the Republican Party mainstream.

(© 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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