Rick Santorum got a little lost in all the commotion from South Carolina and the surprisingly big win for Newt Gingrich over Mitt Romney. Yesterday, Santorum told Candy Crowley on CNN that he could still compete with the others in Florida and elsewhere, and that if this is a two-man race, then Mitt Romney would shortly be the odd man out:

He may have finished third in the South Carolina primary, but Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum didn’t sound like a loser on Sunday.

While conceding this round to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who bested Santorum by 23 points in Saturday’s Palmetto State voting, the former Pennsylvania senator suggested Gingrich had South Carolina sewn up, and the real contests are still to come. …

Santorum said having three different winners so far dealt a serious blow to any notion that Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, was certain to emerge as the Republican presidential nominee.

In particular, he said the victories by both himself and Gingrich showed that conservatives were flexing their muscles in the primary process.

“This idea that Mitt Romney is not going to be able to be defeated unless conservatives coalesce, well. it’s objectively false,” Santorum told Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. “I said to Newt when I talked to him last night, this may be a two-person race, but the two people may be on the phone together.”

Santorum told Crowley to wait and see what the polling looked like after South Carolina, but so far it’s not been terribly helpful to Santorum. Before Gingrich’s surge, Santorum says, he was in second place — but that was only in one poll (CNN/Time) at 19%, while a number of others had him in third. He’s now trailing badly at 11% in both polls released today, which is good for 3rd in Rasmussen but only 4th in Insider Advantage.  The conservative vote in Florida does appear to be coalescing around Newt Gingrich, at least for the moment.

Santorum will need to continue his arguments against Gingrich from the last debate tonight — hitting him on his record as Speaker, his long support of the same individual mandate at the core of both ObamaCare and RomneyCare, and his explicit support for RomneyCare in 2006.  Santorum has no hope of winning moderates away from Romney, and if he can’t peel off enough conservatives for a significant boomlet in Florida for himself, it’s difficult to see how Santorum’s shoestring campaign can compete much past Florida as the race starts to go to multiple states simultaneously — which will make it difficult for even Gingrich with his new momentum to keep up with Romney.

Politico reports that Santorum sees the need to attack both candidates:

Rick Santorum kicked off his Florida campaign here Sunday by aiming directly at Newt Gingrich.

“It’s great to be glib, but it’s better to be principled,” the former Pennsylvania senator told a crowd of more than 200 standing in a hot parking lot of a strip mall in this town outside Fort Lauderdale. …

“When Newt was speaker of the House, within three years conservatives in the House of Representatives tried to throw him out and in the fourth year they did. Why? Because he wasn’t governing as a conservative!” Santorum said. “He didn’t live up to all of the hype. If you look at what he tried to do and what he accomplished, it just didn’t match with what he said.”

That led to a point-by-point indictment of Gingrich’s record on health care, global warming and his work for Freddie Mac.

“For 20 years, Congressman Gingrich has demanded and encouraged and fought to get a mandate from the federal level – the very thing that the attorney general in this country is fighting for at the Supreme Court,” Santorum said. “Up until last year, Speaker Gingrich supported that mandate.”

You’ll hear more about this in tonight’s debate.