For former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, last night's speech was one few expected to hear and that just weeks ago, even he didn't expect to give.
"You have taken the first step of taking back this country," Santorum said to the crowd in Iowa, moments before being declared the runner-up in the caucus.
With a strong second place showing, just 8 votes behind caucus winner Mitt Romney, Santorum has the one thing few others can claim: Momentum. But as the field heads for New Hampshire, it may be 8 votes too little, many weeks too late.
"This is a tremendous victory for Santorum, but it is not likely to translate into subsequent successes in the primary. He probably will not do well in New Hampshire next week," Rogers Smith, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, said.
Santorum's surge came at just the right time, days before the caucus, when candidates with deeper pockets didn't have time to target him in negative ads.
Now, with a barrage of them expected to hit the air in New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond, it may be Santorum with not enough time. Ads cost money and he has to act fast to get some.
"Santorum will get a lot of money, but it's not the same as having a national organization already in place," Smith said.
But Rick Santorum does stand to gain from how Iowa winnowed the rest of the Republican field.
With Michelle Bachmann out and Rick Perry skipping New Hampshire, Santorum may be viewed as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, scoring wins in crucial southern states.
"Unless he makes a recovery in South Carolina and subsequent primaries, this could be the high point of the Santorum campaign," Smith said.
Despite the disadvantages he faces, experts say it would be a mistake to count Rick Santorum out. After all, he almost won Iowa with a dose of retail politics and a borrowed pickup truck.
That truck is now fully fueled, with a little more horsepower for the road ahead.