Santorum Pursues Surge in Colorado, Minnesota

By Richardson, Valerie | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 7, 2012 | Go to article overview

Santorum Pursues Surge in Colorado, Minnesota


Richardson, Valerie, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: Valerie Richardson, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

DENVER -- The Republican presidential race could be headed for another reshuffle Tuesday as Rick Santorum, who has lagged behind since his surprise Iowa victory, is once again challenging the dominance of front-runner Mitt Romney.

Polling over the past week shows Mr. Santorum statistically tied with Mr. Romney in Minnesota, besting him in Missouri, and running second to him but ahead of rival Newt Gingrich in Colorado, all of which hold contests Tuesday.

Mr. Romney's camp took notice, firing the kinds of broadsides it generally has aimed at Mr. Gingrich. Romney surrogates on Monday accused Mr. Santorum of pork-barrel spending. The Romney campaign also tried to blunt Mr. Santorum's attacks by pointing out that the former senator from Pennsylvania endorsed Mr. Romney in 2008.

Typical Romney, Mr. Santorum said on the campaign trail, dismissing the criticism.

He goes out and throws the kitchen sink and runs negative ads and sends out his surrogates to rip and tear, even though he is as vulnerable on this issue as anybody, said Mr. Santorum. I don't think it's going to work this time.

Minnesota and Colorado hold caucuses Tuesday, while Missouri holds a nonbinding primary - and with Mr. Gingrich having failed to get on that state's ballot, it offers the first test of Mr. Romney versus a single conservative opponent.

Fresh off his second consecutive victory, in Nevada on Saturday, Mr. Romney hoped to use February's relatively light schedule to build his lead in delegates, but he found himself Monday trying to dent Mr. Santorum's momentum.

His campaign sent out the news release it issued in 2008 with moderately glowing praise from Mr. Santorum's endorsement, and in a conference call with reporters, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Romney supporter, criticized Mr. Santorum for his long history of pork-barrel spending, pointing to his support for earmarks.

If you look at his record, it's not a perfect conservative record by a long shot, Mr. Pawlenty said.

Mr. Santorum defends earmarking as Congress' right, but has said the practice should be suspended given recent abuses and he would enforce that as president.

The 2012 race has been turbulent, with Mr. Santorum winning Iowa's caucuses, Mr. Romney winning New Hampshire's primary, Mr. Gingrich winning South Carolina's primary and Mr. Romney winning Florida's primary and Nevada's caucuses.

But in Iowa and Nevada, Mr. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, won fewer overall votes than he did in 2008, when he lost the GOP nomination to Sen. John McCain.

That is worrisome news heading into caucuses in Colorado and Minnesota, which Mr. Romney won by double digits in 2008.

Still, the smart money says he likely will win again. He has gained the backing of top Colorado Republican bigwigs, such as former Gov. Bill Owens, former Sens. Wayne Allard and Hank Brown, and Attorney General John Suthers. Mr. Romney's religion also benefits him in Colorado, which has the nation's eighth-largest Mormon population, whose members represent a powerful voting bloc in Republican elections. Turnout is expected to be lower than in 2010, the year the tea party voters flooded non-presidential caucuses, which benefits Mr. Romney, said Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli.

Tea party voters can surge if they're really angry, but my sense is that Romney's long work here and momentum are going to make him hard to beat, said Mr. …

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