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Posted at 05:31 PM ET, 02/17/2012

Candidates Romney, Santorum, Paul converge on Idaho

BOISE -- In 2008, Idaho was barely a blip on the Republican radar. With a May primary and four electoral votes up for grabs in the general election, the GOP contenders treated this state like flyover country four years ago.

Not this time.


File photo of Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Idaho Gov. Butch Otter. (Robert Bower - AP)

Aiming to have more of a say in who the GOP nominee is, party leaders here moved their contest to Super Tuesday, March 6, ditching the usual primary and going for a caucus instead.

Tuesday, Rick Santorum showed up.

Wednesday, Ron Paul had a rally.

And Friday, it was Mitt Romney’s turn.

In a short speech, the former Massachusetts governor spoke to about 700 supporters at Guerdon Modular Buildings, assailing President Obama for failing America, ballooning the deficit, and weakening the military.

Romney also has stepped up his attacks on Santorum, who has surged in recent national polls.

“We’ll all hear people talk about what they’ll do to shrink the size of the federal government and cut back on spending. But you have to look at people’s records, as well as their words. And I know that Senator Santorum is getting his moment in the spotlight now, which is a good thing. I hope people take a very close look at his record,” Romney said.

“He was in Congress for about 20 years, and during that time the size of the federal government doubled during his time in office. And by the way, he voted to raise the debt ceiling five different times without compensating cuts. And he is a big proponent of earmarks. He voted for billions of dollars in earmarks, including the bridge to nowhere. If you want a fiscal conservative you can’t vote for Rick Santorum because he’s not a deficit hawk…..I’m a fiscal conservative.”

Romney, who spent time in this state as a teenager and recalled learning about corn and seeing Loretta Lynn sing when he was 15, has locked up much of the GOP establishment in this state, including Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who introduced him.

The state’s heavy Mormon population (15 percent) should give Romney something of an edge.

But if crowd size is any indication, Santorum, who drew about 3,000 (on Valentine’s Day) will wage a tough fight for the state’s 32 delegates.

By  |  05:31 PM ET, 02/17/2012

Tags:  Idaho, Idaho caucuses, Super Tuesday

 
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