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Santorum: Ohio on Super Tuesday a 'huge deal' for his campaign

March 05, 2012|By Seema Mehta

Reporting from Westerville, Ohio — Rick Santorum delivered his closing pitch to Ohio primary voters, saying his showing in Tuesday’s primary was critical to proving that a grass-roots insurgency candidate could compete with an established, moneyed competitor.

Santorum said Ohio would be a key state on Super Tuesday, when nearly a dozen states vote on the GOP nominee for president.

“It is great to be here for a big day and hopefully a big victory tomorrow in Ohio,” Santorum told hundreds of supporters crowded in an American Legion hall in suburban Columbus, before introducing his wife and three of his seven children, who were clad in his signature sweater vests.

Santorum said that while the results in Ohio will not be a “make or break” moment for his candidacy, “it’s going to be a huge deal.”

A former senator from neighboring Pennsylvania, Santorum joked that it was difficult as a Penn State alum to be in the heart of Buckeye territory. And he said that as a young man, “I used to enjoy going to Ohio” when the drinking age there was 18 while it was 21 in Pennsylvania.

But all levity aside, even Santorum’s most ardent supporters emphasized how important Tuesday’s vote was for Santorum’s candidacy.

“This is right down to the wire,” said Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine, who formerly backed Santorum’s rival Mitt Romney, a point highlighted by a new CNN poll Monday that showed the men tied at 32% each. “On one side we have one candidate who has all the energy … the other side frankly has all the money, the other side has the establishment.”

“While Romney has  the establishment, Rick Santorum has the people,” he said, and the crowd roared.

Santorum noted that new figures showed that Romney and his supporters were outspending him 12 to one, yet Ohioans are “standing strong and firm for us.” He said the  state’s GOP voters did not want a candidate “who can just pound their opponent into the ground, but someone who can lift up their country to something better in the future.”

Santorum also spent the day emphasizing recently unearthed statements that Romney made about healthcare while President Obama’s healthcare law was being crafted, saying they made the former Massachusetts governor un-trustable, inconsistent and “uniquely unqualified” to be the GOP nominee.

“We need someone to go out and take the president on on the big issues of the day and there’s no bigger issue than Obamacare,” he told hundreds of supporters and students earlier in the day at a Christian school in Miamisburg, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. "I’ve never been for a government mandate, state or federal. I’ve never said government is going to solve the healthcare problem. Government is the healthcare problem.”

Santorum also spent much of the day attacking Obama as out of touch with the nation’s values. And against the backdrop of a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group that Santorum was scheduled to address Tuesday in Washington D.C., he railed against Obama’s handling of Middle East policy, saying the president is naive in his understanding of how seriously Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon.

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