- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2012

Rick Santorum is now calling his home state of Pennsylvania a must-win in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, just as his hopes in Wisconsin, which votes on Tuesday, continue to fade.

“We have to win Pennsylvania, and we’re going to win Pennsylvania. I have no doubt about that,” Mr. Santorum said on Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Pennsylvania Republicans will head to the polls on April 24.

But long before that, voters in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia will have their say. Polls show GOP front-runner Mitt Romney leading in all three states that vote Tuesday, and the former Massachusetts governor continued Sunday to pick up key endorsements from top Wisconsin Republicans, who are now urging Mr. Santorum and the other remaining candidates to step aside for the sake of party unity.

Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a favorite among conservatives and architect of the House Republicans’ recent budget proposal, threw his support to Mr. Romney. On Sunday morning, freshman Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin did the same, and urged voters in the Badger State to send a strong signal Tuesday that the primary battle is over.

“It is time to end this so we can spend the next seven months pointing out that President Obama has failed to lead,” he said on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”



Gov. Romney is the person to lead our party. Let’s show that this is the time to bring this process to an end,” he said.

Those high-profile endorsements, along with those of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former President George H.W. Bush last week, have had little impact on the Santorum campaign, which continues to paint Mr. Romney as a weak, moderate Republican with little chance of capturing the White House in November.

Mr. Santorum also chastised Mr. Ryan and Mr. Rubio for their endorsements, and said the two young darlings of the Republican Party will eventually regret their decisions.

“Everybody is entitled to a mistake in their life. Rubio and Ryan are pretty young. They’ll recover from it,” he said. “They should be endorsing me.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, both of whom have fallen back in the primary race, also reiterated Sunday they aren’t dropping out, and could take their quests all the way to the Republican Party convention in Tampa, Fla., this summer.

“There’s no way I’m going to give up on the effort to get Republicans back to their roots. The truth is, I’m trying to save the Republican Party,” Mr. Paul said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Speaking on the same program, Mr. Gingrich said he won’t abandon his effort until Mr. Romney has secured the necessary 1,144 delegates, a goal that remains a long way off. Mr. Romney has secured an estimated 568 delegates thus far, compared with 273 for Mr. Santorum. Mr. Gingrich and Mr. Paul have captured 135 and 50 delegates, respectively.

The prolonged primary contest has, analysts say, pushed Mr. Romney further to the political right as he continues to struggle with convincing Republican voters that he’s an authentic conservative. The Obama re-election team is poised to take advantage of that handicap. On Sunday, his campaign rolled out a key part of its strategy: Paint the GOP as an extreme movement out of touch with middle-class Americans.

“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Vice President Joseph R. Biden said on “Face the Nation.”

“This is a different party than I’m used to. The Republican electorate is different than it’s been. How far right has it gone? How anti-government has it become? There’s almost a different language” within the party now as compared to years ago.

Mr. Santorum, however, sees the rejuvenated conservative base of the Republican Party as key to defeating Mr. Obama, and said the party should avoid the past mistake of nominating perceived middle-of-the-road candidates such as Sen. John McCain, who was soundly defeated by Mr. Obama in 2008.

Beyond Pennsylvania, Mr. Santorum said he likes his chances in states such as Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, West Virginia and Kentucky, all of which vote in May. He acknowledged that a bitter battle at the party convention could have a negative effect on the GOP’s chances this fall, but said Republicans should be willing to pay that price if it results in a more conservative challenger to the president.

“There’s one thing worse than a convention fight, and that’s picking the wrong candidate,” Mr. Santorum said.

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