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Santorum fares well in primaries, Romney faces challenges with Ohio race around corner

Courtesy of MCT

When Republican presidential primary candidate Rick Santorum made his way through Columbus Saturday, many Ohioans were left wondering whether he will beat out another major candidate, Mitt Romney, to win the Republican candidacy.

Nathaniel Swigger, an Ohio State assistant professor of political science, said Santorum will provide an interesting counter to Romney.

“(Santorum) has a blue-collar back story and is clearly more comfortable reaching out to lower income voters, who Romney has had trouble reaching,” Swigger said. “Unlike any of the other would-be challengers to Romney, Santorum is a polished politician with little personal baggage, which makes him a more difficult target.”

Another OSU political science professor, Elliot Slotnick, said it is very possible the Republican convention could be a brokered convention, one in which there aren’t enough delegates won during the presidential primaries for a single candidate to have a majority.

“With four candidates in this race, it’s realistic that it could come down to the Republican convention to select a candidate,” Slotnick said. “So in that case, nobody would win, and that opens the door for any candidates. I would think maybe even more well-known Republicans, like Jeb Bush, would be options.”

According to CNN polling, Santorum surged in Ohio as 36 percent of those who say they will vote in the primary also say they will support Santorum. Twenty-nine percent say they support Romney, 20 percent say they support Newt Gingrich and nine percent will support Ron Paul.

Santorum served as a Pennsylvania representative for four years until he became a U.S. senator from 1995 until 2007.

Romney was governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007. He was formerly a CEO and businessman at Bain & Company, a management consulting business.

Paul has been the U.S. representative for Texas’s 14th congressional district since 1997. He ran for president in 1988 as a libertarian and in 2008 as a republican.

Gingrich represented Georgia’s 6th congressional district from 1979 until his resignation in 1999. He also served as the 58th Speaker of the House.

Swigger said one thing is clear with the various primary results: Republicans are not satisfied with their options in general and Romney specifically.

“CNN just came out with a poll over the weekend that showed only 55 percent of Republicans were happy with their choices in the race,” Swigger said.

This has remained evident as the most recent poll from the Feb. 11 Maine primary shows Romney winning with 39 percent of votes, followed by Ron Paul at 34.9 percent. Santorum is at 18.1 percent.

However, Santorum won Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri on Feb. 7, winning Missouri with 55.2 percent of votes.

Swigger said one of the things that might hold Santorum back for Super Tuesday may be his conservative values.

“The biggest knock on Santorum is his social conservatism, which is extreme,” Swigger said. “However, given the low turnout in the GOP primaries and the enthusiasm that Santorum can generate among evangelical voters, that flaw may actually help him in the Southern primaries, particularly given Romney’s flip-flopping on social issues.”

Santorum has voiced his ultra-conservative stances on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. During his visit to Columbus, he talked about his efforts to ban late-term abortions.

“I’ve actually done something about this issue. I have a track record of standing up,” Santorum said Saturday.

Slotnick said that as much as Santorum’s success has been surprising, Romney’s hardships have been shocking as well.

“Obviously, nobody expected Santorum to do as well as he did,” Slotnick said. “But what was equally surprising were Romney’s difficulties.”

If Romney were to lose Ohio and his home state Michigan, Slotnick said he thinks his chances of winning the candidacy are slim.

“If he loses there, I just don’t see him getting the nomination,” Slotnick said. “If Santorum were to win both, he would definitely emerge as a front runner.”

Ohio’s primary race will be held on March 6, better known as “Super Tuesday.”

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