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Where Does Santorum Need to Win?

Watch Wisconsin, Ohio, and Illinois.

by
Patrick Reddy

Bio

February 18, 2012 - 12:00 am
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If Gingrich collapses after Georgia on March 6, the natural conservative majority among Southern Republicans should make Santorum the favorite over Romney in the March primaries in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, plus his rural strength should help him in the North Dakota, Alaska, and Missouri caucuses (where he’s already won the non-binding primary).

But the South and Farm Belt do not make up a majority of GOP delegates. Romney will run up big delegate counts in coastal states like New York, Massachusetts, and California, as well as in Utah and Idaho which both have high Mormon populations. On that basis, and due to Santorum and Gingrich splitting his opposition, Romney still is the odds-on favorite. But even if he doesn’t win the nomination, Santorum may garner enough delegates to press for the second spot on the Republican ticket, which could make for a hot time at the GOP Convention in Tampa this summer.

To clinch a majority, Santorum will also need to score in the big “industrial” states, which are a mixture of urban industry, suburbia, and farmers. This will be tested very soon: the key states to watch are Michigan (February 28), Ohio (March 6), Illinois (March 20), Wisconsin (April 3), and Pennsylvania (April 24). Romney should win his former home state of Michigan; Santorum should win his home turf of Pennsylvania. (If Romney loses Michigan, he’s in real trouble.) Wisconsin is winner-take-all, so its importance will be magnified. Ohio has an outstanding track record in choosing presidential winners — missing only in 1960 and 1944 in the last century. But if Santorum can do well with suburbanites there, the Buckeye State could key an upset.

Watch Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois: those states should tell us whether Santorum is a real contender or just the latest pretender to be ground down by Romney’s money machine.

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Patrick Reddy is a political consultant and co-author of California After Arnold. He is now writing 21st Century America: How Suburbanites, Immigrants and High Tech Voters Will Choose Our Presidents.
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