The 10 states voting Tuesday could help provide clarity for a race that has moved from one would-be Romney challenger to the next. The latest of those is Santorum, who is trying to take advantage of the strength he has built over the past month and prove that he can mount a sustained challenge.
With more than 400 delegates at stake, the Super Tuesday contests offer a significant boost in the quest for the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the GOP presidential nomination. The states voting Tuesday are Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming.
Santorum feels the most pressure in Ohio, where the former senator from Pennsylvania built a lead by highlighting his blue-collar roots but where Romney is now considered to have greater momentum.
Santorum left the campaign trail in Ohio and traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to address the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, while Romney spoke to the influential pro-Israel lobbying group by video link from the Buckeye State. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich also addressed the group by video connection.
After weeks of being sidetracked by discussions about contraception, education and other issues, Santorum returned Monday to his criticism of Romney’s conservative record. He questioned whether conservative voters can trust Romney, highlighting the former Massachusetts governor’s health-care law in that state.
“The underlying problem that I hear when I talk to people all over — they say they just don’t trust Mitt Romney to not do what’s the fashionable thing at the moment,” Santorum said in a conference call with reporters. He argued that Romney had shifted with the political winds on issues including global warming and the individual mandate in his health-care plan.
Romney emphasized his economic message and business experience as key to taking on President Obama in the general election. Romney hopes a win in the quintessential swing state of Ohio might finally rally reluctant Republicans around his candidacy.
“I hope that I get the support of people here in Ohio tomorrow, and in other states across the country,” Romney said at a town hall meeting in Youngstown. “I believe if I do, I’ll get the nomination. And then we can start organizing our effort to make sure that we replace President Obama.”
Romney, who with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) toured a factory in Canton that makes highway guardrails, said: “What I know is the economy. I’ve spent my life in the real economy. I understand why jobs come and why they go. Other people in this race have debated about the economy, they’ve read about the economy, they’ve talked about it in subcommittee meetings, but I’ve actually been in it.”