Santorum: Romney has failed to 'close the deal'

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By KELLY P. KISSEL, Associated Press

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum suggested Sunday that the GOP nomination could be settled at this summer's party convention because former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has failed to "close the deal" with voters.

In an interview with The Associated Press following a speech to 1,300 supporters at a suburban Tulsa church, Santorum said Romney's failure to dominate the nominating process despite enormous financial backing could spell trouble for the Republican effort to defeat President Barack Obama in the fall.

"Gov. Romney, with all of the money advantages that any candidate could ever want, I mean huge money advantages, has still not been able to close the deal. That's got to tell you something," Santorum said.

"In the general election, he's not going to have a huge money advantage," Santorum added. "He's still squeaking by and in some cases losing primaries to me, and in his home state winning by 3 points. And outspending me 6, 7 to 1 in doing so."

The former Pennsylvania senator said: "I think it just raises a lot of questions in people's minds whether this is the man who can unite the party and be effective as a foil against Obama. That's one of the reasons I'm going to stay in this race."

Entering Tuesday's primaries, Romney has 203 delegates to 92 for Santorum, 33 for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and 25 for Texas Rep. Ron Paul. It will take 1,144 delegates to lock up the nomination.

Santorum said the race will continue if Romney doesn't pick up some meaningful victories on Super Tuesday, when 10 states go to the polls.

"Can he win Oklahoma? Can he win Tennessee? Can he win Ohio?" Santorum asked.

He said Romney picked up some early victories "because he was the establishment candidate, not because he is the best candidate now.

"Hopefully some people will start looking at this race and see where this race is going to end up," Santorum added. "If everybody stays in, it may end up at the convention."

Sunday's visit was Santorum's second to Oklahoma since his impressive showing in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri last month. Santorum believes his conservatism will play well in Oklahoma — with 40 delegates at stake — because Obama failed to win any of the state's 77 counties in 2008.

"A state like Oklahoma is a state, as you hear, that fits me well," Santorum said.

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