Ed touched on this earlier today, but I want to revisit it briefly because, while the rest of the country focuses on Florida, Rick Santorum is already hard at work campaigning in Missouri — and he won’t let anything, not even Newt Gingrich’s calls for him to exit the race, distract him from the issues:

“We want someone who’s going to take the high road, who’s going to talk about the issues that are important to this country and quit getting down into the gutter and talking about things that have nothing to do with who should be the next President of the United States,” Santorum said, continuing on a theme he introduced at CNN’s debate in Jacksonville on Thursday. “I’m sick and tired of candidates who think they have to do anything that’s necessary – anything to win an election.”

Santorum implored Missouri voters, who vote in a non-binding primary on Feb. 7, that this election was too important to be distracted by the “gutter politics that we’ve been seeing in this race.” The state also holds caucuses on March 17 to begin the process of allotting the state’s 52 delegates.

When asked after the rally if he had a response to recent calls from Newt Gingrich supporters for him to drop out of the race and work to unite conservatives behind one challenger to Mitt Romney, Santorum said that the mere suggestion shows Gingrich’s supporters are nervous.

“You know I think one opponent calling for the other opponent to get out just shows the weakness that opponent feels – obviously feels in their own campaign,” Santorum said emphatically. “I’m not calling for anybody to get out. We’ll beat them straight up.”

This event marked the beginning of Santorum’s push towards primaries and caucuses to be held next week in several western states – a strategy the underdog candidate announced after taking several days to care for his three-year-old daughter Bella who was hospitalized with pneumonia on Saturday.

So far, Santorum hasn’t fallen prey to the trap both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich slipped into earlier in the primary season. That is, he’s never promised he wouldn’t point out the weaknesses of his competitors — but he has made a point to draw the evidence for those weaknesses from their established records and to stay focused on the issues they misjudged. In other words, he’d rather talk about the bailouts than Bain Capital and Obamacare than where Gingrich fit into the Reagan Revolution. It’s a strategy that’s far more sustainable than Gingrich’s pledge to be civil to his competitors and Romney’s promise to stay trained on Obama.

Meanwhile, Santorum also had a solid fundraising month, bringing in $4.2 million in January. An aide said he experienced a huge uptick in donations after last week’s CNN debate. He hasn’t made a major issue of Florida, which means he’s in a good position to move forward no matter how he finishes tonight. No matter what the spin is, this isn’t a two-man race yet — or, if it is, it might not be the two you think.