Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsMitt Romney

Rick Santorum to begin Pennsylvania campaign in Gettysburg

March 20, 2012|By Colby Itkowitz | The Allentown Morning Call
  • Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum talks to supporters during a rally in Moline, Ill.
Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum… (Charlie Riedel / AP Photo )

Reporting from Washington —

With Rick Santorum expected to go 0-3 in battleground states after losses in Michigan, Ohio and likely in Tuesday's Illinois primary, the former U.S. senator is bringing his underdog presidential campaign to the next must-win state — Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Republicans don't vote until April 24, but the primary election calendar isn't friendly to Santorum until then. Front-runner Mitt Romney is expected to win April contests that include more moderate New York, Washington, D.C., and Connecticut, leaving just Pennsylvania — and maybe Wisconsin — up for grabs.

Santorum returns to the state Tuesday night, rallying in Gettysburg to await the results of the Illinois primary. In his own Gettysburg address, he'll invoke themes of "freedom" associated with the spot where Abraham Lincoln, a native of Illinois, gave one of the nation's most venerable speeches.

Then Saturday morning, Santorum will speak at the Pennsylvania Leadership Council conference in Harrisburg, where the state's conservatives will gather to hear from such high-profile politicos as South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former presidential candidate Herman Cain and presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

Santorum needs to get back in the good graces of the state's fiscal-conservative activists after alienating many with his support for government spending and Arlen Specter.

For Santorum's presidential aspirations, winning Pennsylvania is crucial. Not only does it allow him to forge ahead with a battleground state win under his belt, but it also allows him to argue vindication of his crushing defeat in 2006, at least with Republican voters. Santorum, then a two-term U.S. senator, lost by 18 points to Democrat Bob Casey.

G. Terry Madonna, veteran political analyst at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, said if Santorum loses, or even just sneaks by, it reinforces the notion that he can't win his own state.

"He certainly cannot afford to narrowly win it," Madonna said. "It would be hugely destructive politically if he doesn't win comfortably here."

Brian Nutt, Santorum's state political director, pushed back at the notion Pennsylvania is a "make it or break it" primary for Santorum. He pointed to Santorum's near-wins in Ohio and Michigan, where Romney's campaign and "super PAC" spent millions more than Santorum's.

Nutt, who managed Tom Corbett's successful 2010 gubernatorial race, said a Santorum win in Pennsylvania would "continue to show the broad-base appeal Santorum has, not just in Southern states, but in the Rust Belt states, the manufacturing states."

Santorum is polling well ahead in Pennsylvania over Romney, but Romney has plenty of attack material to hit Santorum with once campaigning starts here. A recent Quinnipiac University poll has Santorum up by 14 points over Romney and leading handily with Pennsylvania voters who cite moral character as the most important trait. Yet, those who picked beating President Obama leaned to Romney.

Potentially most damaging: Romney will continue to remind the state's conservatives that Santorum once stood behind Specter, a man loathed by many Pennsylvania Republicans, over conservative darling Pat Toomey. He'll also hammer Santorum on his support for earmarks, with an assist from former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who tells anyone who will listen how helpful Santorum was in getting federal funding for state projects.

The Romney campaign will parade Republican establishment types like Lehigh Valley U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent and former Gov. Tom Ridge to assert why Romney is better suited than Santorum, a man they worked with in Pennsylvania politics.

Jim Roddey, Allegheny County Republican chairman, and a supporter of Romney's, expects Romney will make a "concerted effort" to win Pennsylvania and as many of its 72 delegates as possible.

Romney will tell Pennsylvania voters: "My message will resonate best with independent voters and moderate Democrats, and those are the votes that are absolutely critical [to defeat Obama in November]," Roddey said.

Alan Novak, a former Republican state chairman and also a Romney backer, said those close to the campaign have said no decisions will be made about how much of the candidate's time, resources and money they'll invest in Pennsylvania until after the April 3 primaries.

But Santorum's campaign is readying itself for a knock-down, drag-out fight from Romney in Pennsylvania. Based on the large sums Romney has spent in previous close contests, Nutt said he's "preparing for what I would call the worst" in Pennsylvania.

citkowitz@mcall.com

Rick Santorum to begin Pennsylvania campaign in Gettysburg

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|