Elections 2012: ‘Minnesota Can Reset This Race,’ says Rick Santorum

White House hopeful Rick Santorum on Sunday said a win in Minnesota – where he is leading polls – could “reset” the Republican race and vowed to push through to the party’s August convention.

Republican candidate Rick Santorum is gunning for a victory in at least one of the three states holding presidential nominating contests on Tuesday in an attempt to slow down front-runner Mitt Romney and revive his fading White House hopes. Photo: Patrick Gensel/Flickr

The former senator from Pennsylvania  scored an early win last month after a recount handed him 34-vote victory in first-in-the-nation Iowa.

But, according to Yahoo! News, he failed to carry that momentum, placing at or near the bottom of the narrowing field in New Hampshire, South Carolina,Florida and Nevada.

Tuesday may give him a modest boost. Colorado and Minnesota hold Republican caucuses in the state-by-state battle to decide on the party’s challenger to Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 presidential election. Missouri holds what amounts to a non-binding “beauty contest.”

According to Reuters, a victory on Tuesday would revive Santorum’s hopes and enable him to make the case to fundraisers that his campaign remains viable, and allow him to compete with former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich as the main Romney alternative.

“Winning would be great, but doing well and showing that … we still have a strong base of support out there is going to be good enough for us,” Santorum told CNN on Monday.

A poll released Sunday showed Santorum ahead by two points — which is within the statistical margin of error.

Since Minnesota holds caucuses — where voters can’t just stop by to cast a ballot but must instead show up for a discussion on Tuesday at 7:00 pm (0100 GMT) — turnout will be key to winning this midwestern state.

“Minnesota can reset this race,” Santorum told the cheering crowd gathered at a winery outside of the town of Waconia.

“This room can change the course of this election,” Santorum told the 300 or so supporters who skipped watching the Super Bowl to hear him speak.

“If everybody in this building gets 10 people, think about the impact you can have on this race.”

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney’s campaign attempted to remind voters of Santorum’s penchant for seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in government grants for his home state when he was a senator, a practice conservatives see as wasteful spending.

“We need a next president who’s been strong and proven in fiscal and spending matters,” said Romney supporter Tim Pawlenty, a former governor of Minnesota. Pawlenty endorsed Romney after dropping out of the race himself last year.

At an evening event in Centennial, Romney joined a conservative outcry over a portion of Obama’s healthcare overhaul that will force Catholic schools, hospitals and charities to provide insurance for their employees covering contraception even if though it violates the church’s teachings.

“This is a violation of conscience. We must have a president who is willing to respect America’s first right, our right to worship God,” Romney told a large crowd at Arapahoe High School.

Santorum, who earlier Sunday spoke at a church service in suburban Minneapolis and visited the rural Minnesota factory that makes his signature sweater vests, stayed more than an hour after his speech to greet and take photos with everyone at the winery.

Approached by AFP, he echoed rival Newt Gingrich’s vow to fight to the end.

“Our intention is to win, so of course we’re going to take it to the convention,” the former US senator from Pennsylvania said in a brief interview.

“If we finish in last place in every race, yes, but I don’t think we’re going to do that,” Santorum said when asked if Super Tuesday would make or break his campaign. “I think we’re going to do very well.”

Santorum had the support of 29 percent of Minnesota Republicans while Romney won 27 percent in the Public Policy Polling survey released Sunday.

Gingrich was at 18 percent while congressman Ron Paul held 12 percent, the poll showed.

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