Romney’s Path to Nomination Runs Through Wisconsin

Even if Santorum can pull off an unlikely win in Wisconsin, Romney still leads in delegates and money.

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Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are taking different paths in the run-up to Tuesday's Republican presidential primary in Wisconsin, but Romney appears to be in the driver's seat.

Romney, the front-runner nationally with a big lead in delegates and money, is trying to show that he is the inevitable nominee and is emphasizing his growing list of endorsements. Most recently, he won the support of influential Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and former President George H.W. Bush, among others.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Mitt Romney.]

Romney has been aiming more of his fire at President Obama, arguing that the incumbent has presided over a vast expansion of big government, hasn't created enough jobs, and has shown weakness in foreign policy. His campaign and his allied political action committee also have been running ads in Wisconsin arguing that Santorum was a creature of Washington during his 16 years in Congress, until his D.C. career ended when he lost a re-election bid for the Senate from Pennsylvania.

Santorum has been attacking Romney as an unreliable conservative who is out of synch with the party base on many issues, including healthcare reform and the federal government's bailout of Wall Street.

Santorum lags in the Wisconsin polls, as he does in D.C. and Maryland, which also hold primaries Tuesday. Even if Santorum manages to win Wisconsin, Romney probably will emerge from Tuesday's contests with more delegates because he is so far ahead in D.C. and Maryland.

[Read Rick Santorum's April Showers.]

Wisconsin has drawn the most media attention of the three contests because both Romney and Santorum have competed heavily there and it will be a key battleground state in the November election.

For many weeks, Wisconsin's politics have been dominated by a campaign to recall GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who has clashed repeatedly with public employee unions and others. The Walker recall election isn't until June, but it has apparently intensified voter interest in politics across the board, including the presidential primary contest between Romney and Santorum.

The other two presidential candidates--former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas--have not campaigned heavily in Wisconsin and aren't expected to do well there.

Beyond this week, Santorum is having problems in his home state of Pennsylvania, which holds a primary later this month and where his once-big lead in the polls has faded to a statistical tie with Romney.

Santorum says he will do much better in May, when there will be primaries in southern states including North Carolina and Texas.

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