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Santorum keeps hopes alive

March 07–STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Rick Santorum held his standing in the Republican presidential campaign on Super Tuesday by sticking close enough to Mitt Romney to a dead heat in the important Ohio primary.

Ohio officials said the two were in a deadlock with 37 percent of the vote each with 85 percent counted.

In other Tuesday battling, the two hopefuls were close, four states to three states. Romney captured Massachusetts, Vermont, Idaho and Virginia. Santorum picked up Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota. Newt Gingrich won big in his home state of Georgia. Results were not available from Alaska. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas hoped to secure his first wins of the race in the caucus states.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, surrounded himself with family and friends in Steubenville to await results from Ohio, considered the bellwether state of the day. Just a week ago, he led Romney by double digits in most polling in the Buckeye State.

“This was a big night tonight. We are going to win a few and lose a few. We are going for a couple of gold medals and a whole bunch of silver ones,” Santorum said to the crowd at the Steubenville High School gym in the downtown area of the Ohio Valley city, where a scattering of Terrible Towels waved in support.

“This is our roots this is where we are from, where the folks who worked hard and built this country lived for many, many decades,” Santorum said.

“This campaign is about the towns left behind and those are the towns that made this country great,” said Santorum who was surrounded by his wife, mother, children and long time Western Pennsylvania supporters.

He said his campaign has won in the west, Midwest and the South, “and we are ready to win across this country. “

Santorum promised his campaign would continue even though he lacks the money and organization to match Romney’s.

Romney spent the day in his home state of Massachusetts

“Tonight we’ve taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America. Tomorrow we wake up and we start again. And the next day we do the same. And so it will go, day by day, step by step, door to door, heart to heart,” Romney said at the Copley Place in downtown Boston.

Romney stuck to the effective positive message where he used to battle back from behind to win over voters in Michigan and Ohio.

“I have said before — and I firmly believe — that this campaign is about saving the soul of America. And it is driven by the unshakable optimism that lies within our American hearts,” he said to the packed ballroom.

“We know that our future is brighter and better than these troubled times. We have been knocked down. We have been tested. But we don’t accept an America of limits. We know America is a land of opportunity. We still get up each day and thank God that we’re Americans. And we know that with hard work and strong leadership, our greatest days are ahead,” Romney said.

Romney showed the party that he has become a disciplined candidate who can stay on message, said Mark Rozell, a political science professor at George Mason University.

“He seems to be simply connecting better with GOP voters who had been skeptical of him,” Rozell said, noting Romney’s setbacks with self-described “very conservative” voters in early contests in Iowa and South Carolina.

Rozell said Romney appears to control the Republican primary process now.

“He has the momentum and the funding,” he said. “His GOP opponents will soon be running on fumes. “

The candidates divided a total of 419 delegates from Super Tuesday states. Kansas holds its caucus on Saturday; Alabama and Mississippi hold primaries on March 13. Pennsylvania’s is April 24.

Bruce Haynes, a Republican strategist based in Washington, expects Santorum and Gingrich to exit the race gracefully and expediently, so that the party can unite behind a candidate and concentrate on beating President Obama.

“To use Rick Santorum’s own words, sometimes you have to be a team player,” said Haynes, the managing partner of Purple Strategies in Washington.

Paul will stay in the race because he is not tethered to the conventions of politics, Haynes said: “He sees himself as leading a cause and he will soldier on for the cause regardless of his ability to be viable and win. “

Romney has won states across the nation, including so-called purple states — Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada — “that swing between parties and decide presidential elections,” Haynes said.

Experts agree the former Massachusetts governor’s best strategy is to begin acting like a nominee, by focusing on the November general election and spending less time and money trying to counter Santorum and Gingrich.

Romney should play to his strengths, said Rozell: “Get past the negatives that have dominated the intra-party contest and get back to the image of the solid, sensible bottom-line business guy who knows how to run things. “

Yenerall said Romney’s next challenge is to win over conservative Democrats who supported him in open GOP primaries and will swing the fall election.

“He needs to speak about the economy in accessible, bread-and-butter, lunch pail language and symbolism that working- and middle-class voters understand, touching upon the everyday anxieties that stem from housing, education, health care, the cost of gasoline, etcetera,” Yenerall said.

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