Rick Santorum's Bet on Missouri

HANIBAL, Mo.- GOP contender Rick Santorum is spending the day Friday in Missouri, four days before the state's primary, even though not a single delegate will be awarded to the winner of the contest.

The primary here is little more than state-sanctioned straw poll, and the winner earns nothing more than bragging rights and perhaps a leg up in March's winner-take-all caucus.

"People say the election Tuesday is just a beauty contest, a preference a poll," Santorum told a gathering here Friday morning.  Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, however, will not be on the ballot Tuesday and Santorum is hoping that a victory in a head-to-head matchup against frontrunner Mitt Romney would give his campaign a much-needed boost.

"You hear Congressman Gingrich say we need to have one conservative candidate as an anti-Mitt Romney. I don't but any of that," Santorum said.  "Now we have right here in Missouri, you have Rick Santorum versus Mitt Romney and we'll see how people will vote. What we have found is that I am the only conservative alternative in this race to both Gingrich and Romney."

Santorum bested Romney in Iowa by just 23 votes following a recount there, but has not taken a top tier spot in any of the following contests. Missouri's caucus takes place on March 17 and the winner takes all the states 52 delegates.  Santorum has built his campaign around conservative social values and restoring manufacturing to rural America, two positions he hopes will resonate here.