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Santorum surging in Republican presidential race

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 16:05 EDT
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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Image via AFP.
 
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WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum’s drive to capture the Republican presidential nomination gained momentum Tuesday as he surged to the front of the field in national polls and extended his lead over Mitt Romney in his rival’s native Michigan.

But Romney’s supporters were just rolling out the big guns — massive spending on television and radio ads — that drove previous poorly funded challengers from the field in key states like Florida and Iowa.

All four remaining candidates — Santorum, Romney, Texas congressman Ron Paul and former House speaker Newt Gingrich — have agreed to take part in a CNN-hosted debate in Arizona on February 22, less than a week before primaries there and in Michigan.

National polls showed Santorum surging ahead of longtime frontrunner Romney and the ground shifting rapidly against the former Massachusetts governor since his three state loss to the former Pennsylvania senator last week.

Michigan, where Romney was born and raised, is looming as a crucial, must-win state for the candidate, who has struggled to convince Republicans he is the man to go up against President Barack Obama in November.

“I am a son of Detroit,” Romney proclaimed in an op-ed piece published Tuesday in the Detroit News.

But Romney, whose father was once the state’s governor and head of a now defunct automobile company, used the piece to attack Obama’s bailout of the auto industry as “crony capitalism on a grand scale.”

“The indisputable good news is that Chrysler and General Motors are still in business. The equally indisputable bad news is that all the defects in President Obama’s management of the American economy are evident in what he did.

“Instead of doing the right thing and standing up to union bosses,” Obama rewarded them,” Romney wrote.

It was unclear how that message will go down in a heavily blue-collar state that has experienced a long struggle with economic decay, a plunge into auto industry bankruptcies, and now a bail-out backed recovery.

The Romney campaign, meanwhile, was reported to be preparing a barrage of attacks on Santorum, portraying him as a Washington insider who has never run anything larger than a Senate office.

“Santorum’s a blank slate, so everyone’s projecting on to him what they want because he’s the last anti-Romney,” a Romney advisor was quoted as telling the political website Buzzfeed. “Santorum is going to get introduced to people that don’t know him.”

“They’re going to hit him very hard on earmarks, lobbying, voting to raise the federal debt limit five times,” the advisor said. “The story of Santorum is going to be told over the next few weeks in a big way.”

Politico reported that the Super PAC, or political action committee, supporting Romney is sinking nearly half a million dollars into Michigan in the week of February 14-20, signaling a sharp escalation in spending.

Santorum, a Christian conservative, has appeared to benefit from his image as a politician with working class roots from a northeastern state of Pennsylvania with a similar industrial profile.

His poll surge — the latest in a cycle of revolving conservative challenges to Romney — has come amid a sudden eruption of fights nationally over explosive cultural issues — religion, gay marriage, contraception and women’s rights.

Those issues play to Santorum’s message that he is the only consistently conservative candidate in the Republican race.

But he also found himself on the defensive over a 2005 book that scoffed at the “radical” feminist view that men and women should be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.

In Michigan, Santorum was expected to shift the topic back to jobs, the economy, and other bread and butter issues at the top of voter concerns.

The New York Times reported that he was planning to weave his proposals in a broad blueprint for promoting growth and bringing back jobs for the first time in a speech Thursday to the Detroit Economic Club.

Once in the back of the pack, Santorum has made steady gains in the state-by-state contests as other challengers rose and fell. But his standing has undergone a dramatic change since his stunning sweep last week of Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota.

A national CBS/New York Times poll released Tuesday had Santorum at 30 percent among likely Republican primary voters, to 27 percent for Romney, Paul at 12 percent, and Gingrich at 10 percent.

In Michigan, however, Santorum is now out front at 39 percent to 24 percent for Romney, 12 for libertarian Paul and 11 percent for Gingrich in a survey released Monday by Public Policy Polling.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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