Republican candidate Rick Santorum says moving the opening voting contests in the presidential campaign earlier puts lesser-known candidates like him at a disadvantage.

A panel in Florida has decided to hold that state’s primary on January 31st, a move which means Iowa’s Caucuses won’t be held as scheduled on February 6, but will be moved much earlier.

“I can’t say that I was pleased that Florida did what they did. I think it was no question about it, it was to the benefit of the leading candidates,” Santorum said today. “You know, it takes a game that was 60 minutes and turns it into 45 minutes and, of course, if you’re ahead, you’d like the game to be played tomorrow.”

Santorum’s campaign strategy was already heavily weighted toward a better-than-expected finish in an early state like Iowa, and Santorum said Florida’s decision makes a good finish in the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary an even bigger prize.

“You’re only going to have a couple of candidates that are going to have the ability to compete in Florida. The rest of the candidates are going to have to focus even more so on these early primary states because of the compressed time frame,” Santorum said. “…I think it’s going to end up Florida getting less attention, not more attention.”

Santorum participated in an old-fashioned baseball game at Living History Farms in Urbandale this afternoon after touring the “outdoor museum” of what a town in Iowa would have looked like in 1875.  Santorum joked with a reporter that he might try to buy an “elixir” at the historic “General Store” to try to enhance his play in the game, but Santorum — who described himself as “a little bit of a baseball historian” — said it “was not considered sporting” to hit home runs during the end of the 19th century. 

On Monday, Santorum will campaign in Clarion, Grundy Center, Toledo and Vinton. Republican rival Michele Bachmann will campaign in western Iowa Monday afternoon, with stops in Sioux City and Council Bluffs.