Tuesday's contests could keep him in the race -- or persuade his supporters that he has no shot at the nomination.

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For Rick Santorum, Tuesday's primary in Minnesota is key. Is his candidacy doomed? Or is there reason to stay in the race?

The former Pennsylvania senator finished first in Iowa, tied for fourth in New Hampshire, finished third in South Carolina, third in Florida, and came in last on Saturday in Nevada. In other words, he is trending in the wrong direction.

But he's got an optimistic theory about why that is so.

"Now, we're getting to the states where people don't have the natural advantage, don't have the time commitment, the staff commitment to really build out an organization like they did in these first five," he told Fox News Sunday, predicting a strong performance in upcoming contests. "I think we're going to do very well here in Minnesota. I think we're going to do very well in Colorado, and we've got a one-on-one match up against Mitt Romney in Missouri. While there's no delegates, it is a key state, it is a primary. And we think we can do exceptionally well in the state of Missouri."


At least one poll, the latest from PPP, puts Santorum slightly ahead in The Land of 10,000 Lakes, where Romney won in 2008. But Romney's final push includes campaign appearances with supporters Tim Pawlenty, the state's former governor, and conservative favorite John Bolton. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in contrast, had no plans to endorse when pressed by reporters. "Let me be absolutely clear - there are absolutely no negotiations between me and the Romney campaign regarding any pending endorsement of Governor Romney," she said. "I continue to speak with all the candidates and plan on uniting behind the presumptive nominee."

Even with a win in Minnesota, there is little chance that Santorum would emerge as the GOP nominee. But it would permit him to raise more money and enjoy a platform in the press to keep touting his socially conservative message. The result could even be a field of four candidates running all the way to the GOP convention: Gingrich has already pledged that he'll stay in the race; and Ron Paul, intent on spreading his own unique message, has no reason to withdraw.

Image credit: Reuters