Santorum Optimistic About Pennsylvania

Despite delegate lag and close polls, campaign looks to Pa. and Texas for win.

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The battle for Pennsylvania will begin in earnest late Tuesday when Rick Santorum holds an election night rally near Pittsburgh. Nevermind that primaries are being held in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Wisconsin on the day of his speech.

[See pictures of Rick Santorum on the campaign trail.]

Sailing head-first into Mitt Romney's substantial delegate lead and with polls suggesting the former Massachusetts governor has tightened the race in the Keystone State, the Santorum campaign has vowed to soldier on through the April 24 primary that includes Pennsylvania.

The swing state's primary looks to be one of the most divisive contests yet. Mitt Romney is sure to smell blood in the water as he continues to amass delegates, and winning Pennsylvania looks to be his best chance to land a knockout blow in the weeks ahead. Santorum communications chief Hogan Gidley explains that their campaign fully expects the Romney media barrage to be more intense in Pennsylvania than in any previous contest. He claimed that over the course of the election, Romney has spent about $14 for every vote he has received while Santorum has spent only $3.

"That either makes Mitt Romney a horrible businessman or a horrible candidate," Gidley says.

[Read Romney’s Path to Nomination Runs Through Wisconsin.]

Either way, Romney will be able to use his considerable war chest to spread his message throughout Pennsylvania, as he has already done in many other contests. Still, Santorum has some unique advantages in Pennsylvania that look to make the contest competitive. He grew up there and he knows the state well, as he visited all of Pennsylvania's 67 counties during each of the 12 years he served in the Senate.

The state also offers plenty of the kind of historical backdrops Santorum's used in other contests, and Gidley says that the campaign will look to play on the state's revolutionary history. Still, Gidley explains that Santorum's greatest advantage in Pennsylvania will be his message.

"Rick is not a contrived, poll-driven, manifestation of back room D.C. pollsters," he explains. "He is who he is."

New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island also hold their primaries on April 24, but those states are far away from the Southern and Midwestern states where Santorum has had success. For that reason, his focus for the next three weeks will be squarely on Pennsylvania. John Brabender, a top Santorum strategist, adds via e-mail that if Santorum can win his home state, the nomination is still within his grasp.

"We believe if we win Pennsylvania it will give us great momentum going into May, which has many favorable states," he writes. "The bottom line is that we believe that if we win Pennsylvania in April and Texas in May, we will be the GOP nominee."

  • Read Palin to Santorum: 'Don't Retreat'.
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