Elections 2012: Santorum Trails Romney In Pennsylvania, Poll Says

If Rick Santorum is linking the future of his presidential campaign to his performance in the upcoming primary in his native Pennsylvania, his candidacy may be in big trouble.

A new survey of Pennsylvania Republicans out by Public Policy Polling Wednesday night has Rick Santorum trailing Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania 42 percent to 37 percent. Photo: PBS NewsHour/Flickr

Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum is campaigning across Pennsylvania, insisting after a triple loss to rival Mitt Romney that a home state win here will reignite his struggling White House bid.

“We have to win here… We’ve got a strong base of support here and we’re going to work very, very hard,” Santorum told reporters on Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, Rick Santorum hopes that Pennsylvania will give him a large enough victory to justify staying in the race beyond April.

He starts campaigning across western and south-central Pennsylvania on Wednesday. His hope is to galvanize the rural, evangelical and very conservative voters who have supported him in past races in the state and who have supported him in other states in presidential primaries and caucuses this year.

However, a new survey of Pennsylvania Republicans out by Public Policy Polling Wednesday night has the former senator Santorum trailing Mitt Romney in his home state 42 percent to 37 percent, reports The Huff Post.

According to the survey, “the numbers represent a dramatic turnaround from when PPP polled the state a month ago. Romney’s gained 17 points, going from 25 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile Santorum’s dropped 6 points from 43 percent to 37 percent, for an overall swing of 23 points in the last four weeks.”

It turns out that Pennsylvania Republicans still like Santorum, but having had a front-row seat to his politics and campaigning skills, they don’t think he has a chance to win. Only 24 percent of Republican respondents thought their former senator would “provide their best chance for a victory” against President Barack Obama.

“Whether Rick Santorum stays in or not, it’s now basically irrelevant,” Senator John McCain said Wednesday morning on CNN.

“Mitt has a lot of ground to make up,” Mr. McCain said. “It’s been a very nasty primary.  His unfavorables are high.  I’m confident that he will do very well.”

“But the fact is that every day that goes by without being in the general election campaign mode is a day lost.  He realizes that and I think you’re going to see — already you’re seeing the opening shots in a very spirited campaign.”

At the same time the Romney team is lowering its own prospects for Pennsylvania while raising the bar for Mr. Santorum.

“We expect Senator Santorum to win Pennsylvania,” said Russ Schriefer, a top media strategist for Mr. Romney.

“After all, it is his home state, and much like Governor Romney won Massachusetts with over 70 percent and Speaker Gingrich won Georgia with 47 percent, you’d expect that Santorum would win there.”

“That said, Governor Romney looks forward to campaigning in Pennsylvania and competing for delegates,” he added.

It means that if Rick Santorum does not win Pennsylvania by the overwhelming margins that other candidates have won their home states, he has lost.

Santorum himself chose to attack president Obama in recent days.

“We need to draw a clear contrast… whether we want a bottom-up system of building a great and strong economy, based on free people and free enterprise, or whether we’re somebody who buys into Obama’s top-down government control,” Santorum said in Hollidaysburg.

Former Pennsylvania senator accused Obama of attacking religious freedoms and seeking to undermine gun ownership rights, as the candidate sought to revive a political firestorm that erupted in the 2008 campaign over guns and religion.

“Barack Obama four years ago referred to this area of Pennsylvania, right here, as a place that clings to their guns and their Bibles,” Santorum told supporters. “You’re damn right we do!” Santorum said, to a loud roar.

For today Mitt Romney has 655 delegates, over half the 1,144 needed to win the Republican nomination at the party’s national convention in August.

Santorum has 272 delegates, according to a RealClearPolitics tally, while Gingrich has 140 and congressman Ron Paul has 67.

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