Mitt Romney battles Rick Santorum for Ohio ahead of Super Tuesday

GlobalPost

Mitt Romney, still celebrating his win in the Washington State caucuses, and fellow Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum are battling for support in the key state of Ohio heading into Super Tuesday.

However, according to the Atlanta Constitution Journal, Romney also has hopes for Georgia, Newt Gingrich's home state, campaigning at Brookwood High School in Snellville on Sunday.

Romney used a pancake breakfast attended by more than 1,000 people to criticize President Barack Obama over issues like jobs, energy policy and his stance on Iran's nuclear development, the AJC reported.

"If Obama is re-elected, Iran will have a nuclear weapon and the world will change," he reportedly said in response to an 11-year-old boy's question.

Romney is also campaigning in Georgia and Tennessee ahead of Super Tuesday.

Super Tuesday represents the biggest set of presidential nominating contests so far, with 10 states voting and 437 delegates up for grabs — nearly 40 percent of the total needed to secure the nomination, Agence France-Presse wrote.

"The sheer number of states in play on Tuesday, with their diverse demographics and political leanings, could break open a candidate's pathway to the nomination, or spell the end of a failing campaign," AFP added.

Super Tuesday spelled the end of Romney ambitions in 2008, AFP wrote, with the candidate capitulating and Sen. John McCain going on to become the nominee.

Meanwhile, polls show Romney neck-and-neck in the swing state Ohio with the ultra-conservative Santorum.

Winning Ohio would go a long way towards confirming Romney as the likely eventual GOP nominee, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.

"It’s time to elect a leader with real experience to turn this economy around and put Americans back to work," the paper quoted Romney as telling a rally in Cleveland.

Targeting a largely working class audience, representative of the state as a whole, he reiterated that his business experience would be vital to creating jobs and reviving the economy.

Politico cited Santorum’s campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart as saying he was taking a wide view of the "Buckeye State," not "micro-targeting specific areas."

However, Santorum is expected to do best in the south and western parts of the state, outside of Cincinnati, while Romney's campaign expects a strong showing in northeastern Ohio and in suburban Columbus, in the central part of the state.

Santorum has been campaigning aggressively in Ohio, Stewart said, visiting small towns and suburbs where blue-collar voters might be attracted to his "Rust Belt background" and focus on bringing back manufacturing.

However, Romney's advisors are arguing that the momentum in the Republican presidential nominating race is shifting in their favor after their win Saturday in Washington state.

Romney took 37 percent of the Washington caucuses vote in late counting, the Australian reported. Santorum battled congressman Ron Paul for second place, with each scoring 24 percent. While Gingrich was a distant fourth with 11 percent.

According to Romney senior advisor Eric Fehrnstrom, quoted by the LA Times, the campaign believed as recently as a week ago that Santorum would win the Washington contest.

In a statement cited by the Australian, Romney said he was optimistic about Super Tuesday, and in a comment that appeared to be targeted at Santorum said the Washington result showed voters did not want a "Washington insider" in the White House.

"They want a conservative businessman who understands the private sector and knows how to get the federal government out of the way so that the economy can once again grow vigorously," Romney said.

Romney also got a boost going into Super Tuesday with an endorsement from top Republican figure Eric Cantor, Fehrnstrom said.

So far, Romney has won eight states, including the last five in a row. Santorum has won three, with a fourth likely in Missouri. Gingrich has won only South Carolina.

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