Rick Santorum says he raised $250,000 in one night after winning three GOP contests this week — a nice amount that wouldn't pay for the snack chips Mitt Romney throws at hungry reporters on his plane.

The very idea of Rick Santorum as the Republican nominee was pretty far fetched before Tuesday, but now everyone is giving the former Senator another look. That also means taking a realistic look at his finances, which are not great in comparison to his rivals. He got a big boost after his win in Iowa and the upcoming weeks should be pretty good ones for him too. But he's playing from so far behind that it's unlikely he'll never be able to catch up. Romney finished last year with $56 million in donations, not counting the $30 million raised by one of his super PACs. Santorum started 2012 with just $2.2 million, which wasn't even enough to buy TV ads in many of the markets he's actually winning.

His Tuesday victories have also turned the spotlight on those individuals who have given him money. Santorum's biggest benefactor is Foster Friess, who not only has an awesome name, but has given more than $300,000 to Santorum's super PAC, personally paying for many of the pro-Santorum commercials in Minnesota. (He's also become a popular subject of "who's that guy?" profiles this week. That's him in the cowboy hat above.) 

A mutual fund millionaire and cattle trader from Wyoming, Friess backed Mitt Romney in 2008, but switched his allegiance this time around. But despite his generosity, his wealth doesn't compete with the millions given by Sheldon Adelson to Newt Gingrich's campaign, or the dozens of millionaires (and billionaires) giving to Romney's. Santorum has rich friends, but how rich do they have to be for him to a realistic shot?

Despite all the love he's getting from social conservatives and the early contests he's managed to snag, you can't win a nation-wide campaign without money. That more than anything else contributes to the feeling of Romney's "inevitability." Perhaps a couple more wins (particularly on Super Tuesday) could open the floodgates for Santorum donors, but the difference in their bank accounts shows just how small his margin for error really is.

Romney says he can beat Santorum when they compete "head-to-head, in an aggressive way," which really means he can still outspend his opponents by wide margins, even when he isn't trying that hard. Or to put it another way: "Don't make me open this checkbook, or you'll be sorry."