Rick Santorum

Surrounded by members of his family Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum announces he is suspending his candidacy effective today in Gettysburg, Pa., Tuesday, April 10, 2012. (Courtesy of the Associated Press)

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Bowing to the inevitable after an improbably resilient run for the White House, Rick Santorum quit the presidential race on Tuesday, clearing the way for Mitt Romney to claim the Republican nomination.

“We made a decision over the weekend, that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign today, we are not done fighting,” he said.

Santorum, appearing with his family, told supporters that the battle to defeat President Barack Obama would go on but pointedly made no mention or endorsement of Romney, whom he had derided as an unworthy standard-bearer for the GOP.

The former Pennsylvania senator stressed that he’d taken his presidential bid farther than anyone expected, calling his campaign “as improbable as any race that you will ever see for president.”

“Against all odds,” he said, “we won 11 states, millions of voters, millions of votes.”

The delegate totals told the tale of Santorum’s demise. Romney has more than twice as many delegates as Santorum and is on pace to reach the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination by early June. Still in the race, but not considered a factor: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Santorum had hoped to keep his campaign going through the Pennsylvania primary on April 24, but decided to fold after his severely ill 3-year-old daughter, Bella, spent the weekend in the hospital.

He said that while Romney was accumulating more delegates, “we were winning in a very different way. We were touching hearts” with a conservative message.

In a statement, Romney called Santorum “an able and worthy competitor.” With Romney on his way to the nomination and a contest against the president, Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, sharply criticized Romney for waging a negative ad campaign against his opponents.

“It’s no surprise that Mitt Romney finally was able to grind down his opponents under an avalanche of negative ads. But neither he nor his special interest allies will be able to buy the presidency with their negative attacks,” Messina said. “The more the American people see of Mitt Romney, the less they like him and the less they trust him.”

Santorum said the campaign had been “a love affair for me, going from state to state. ... We were raising issues, frankly, that a lot of people did not want raised.”

MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Barack Obama’s administration launched a multi-pronged assault on Mitt Romney’s values and foreign policy credentials Sunday, while a fresh set of prominent Republicans rallied behind the GOP front-runner as the odds-on nominee, further signs the general election is overtaking the primary season.

A defiant Rick Santorum outlined plans to leave Wisconsin the day before the state’s contest Tuesday, an indication that the conservative favorite may be in retreat, his chances to stop Romney rapidly dwindling.

“I think the chances are overwhelming that (Romney) will be our nominee,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ‘’It seems to me we’re in the final phases of wrapping up this nomination. And most of the members of the Senate Republican conference are either supporting him, or they have the view that I do, that it’s time to turn our attention to the fall campaign and begin to make the case against the president of the United States.”

Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden went after Romney Sunday, underscoring the belief inside Obama’s Chicago re-election headquarters that Romney will — sooner than later — secure the right to face Obama this fall. Their involvement comes as both sides sharpen their general election strategy, perhaps weeks before the GOP contest formally comes to an end.

“I think Gov. Romney’s a little out of touch,” Biden told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I can’t remember a presidential candidate in the recent past who seems not to understand, by what he says, what ordinary middle-class people are thinking about and are concerned about.”

The line of attack is likely to play prominently in the Obama campaign’s general election narrative. While Obama is a millionaire, Romney would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents ever elected. And he’s opened himself to criticism through a series of missteps.

Romney casually bet a rival $10,000 during a presidential debate, noted that his wife drives a “couple of Cadillacs,” and lists owners of professional sports teams among his friends. His personal tax records show investments in the Cayman Islands and a Swiss bank account.

Obama’s team on Sunday also seized on Romney’s foreign policy inexperience.

Biden said Obama was “stating the obvious” when he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more latitude on missile defense after the November general election. The two presidents did not realize the exchange, during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, last weekend, was being picked up by a microphone.

Romney called it “alarming” and part of a pattern of “breathtaking weakness” with America’s foes. He asked what else Obama would be flexible on if he were to win a second term.

“Speaking of flexible, Gov. Romney’s a pretty flexible guy on his positions,” Biden said. Romney’s GOP opponents have accused the former Massachusetts governor of “flip-flopping” on issues such as health care and abortion.

Clinton seized on Romney’s comment that Russia is America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” calling the statement “dated” and suggesting there were more pressing matters of concern in global affairs.

“I think it’s somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don’t agree,” Clinton told CNN Sunday.

“He just seems to be uninformed or stuck in a Cold War mentality,” Biden added. “It exposes how little the governor knows about foreign policy.”

But the administration’s comments may have been overshadowed Sunday by Romney’s ballooning Republican support.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spent the weekend at Romney’s side campaigning across Wisconsin, one of three states to host Republican primaries Tuesday. First-term Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., followed Ryan’s lead Sunday morning.

“I’m coming out urging the voters of Wisconsin: ‘Let’s lead. Let’s show that this is the time to bring this process to an end so we can focus our attention on retiring President Obama,’” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He later appeared at a pancake brunch with Romney and offered a message to “every conservative”: “I’ve spoken with Mitt, I totally believe he is committed to saving America.”

The senator joins a growing chorus of prominent Republicans calling for the party to coalesce behind Romney’s candidacy. Romney also scored former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his father, President George H.W. Bush, in recent days.

Ryan’s endorsement was particularly painful for Santorum, who had been aggressively praising the congressman — a fiscal conservative hero in Wisconsin and across the country — for much of the past week. That praise ended Saturday, when Santorum referred to Ryan as “some other Wisconsinite.”

Santorum’s senior staff outlined an increasingly unlikely path to victory that depends upon hypothetical success more than a month away.

“May is going to be a good month for us,” Santorum campaign manager Mike Biundo said. “The race goes on.”

Biundo confirmed that Santorum is aggressively working the phones to sway delegates in states like Washington, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri that have already voted. But he’s having mixed success.

“We have some (delegates) that have committed. I think most people seem to right now still be kind of waiting it out. There seems to be a lot of that that’s going on,” Biundo said.

Santorum was publicly defiant Sunday.

“Look, this race isn’t even at halftime yet,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” He said Romney “hasn’t been able to close the deal with conservatives, much less anybody else in this party. And that’s not going to be an effective tool for us to win this election.”

But with losses piling up for in other industrial states like Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, Santorum acknowledged the results in Wisconsin Tuesday will send a “strong signal” about the direction of the Republican contest.

And he appears to in retreat.

Having devoted more than a week to campaigning across Wisconsin, Santorum is scheduled to return to his home state, Pennsylvania, the day before the Wisconsin contest. Pennsylvania’s primary is more than three weeks away.

Biundo noted that Santorum moved out of Louisiana — where he won — before that state’s election day. But Santorum’s team has demonstrated far less confidence in recent days about Wisconsin than Romney, who has predicted victory here.

Trying to be upbeat, Santorum dismissed Romney’s growing support as “panic” in the Republican establishment and said seeing “everybody sort of coming out of the woodwork to say the things they’re saying today makes me feel like we’re actually doing pretty well here in Wisconsin.”

Meanwhile, Romney hopes to score a knockout blow in Pennsylvania, which hosts its primary April 24. He already has an office in Harrisburg and four paid staffers in the state, and plans to shift additional resources there after Tuesday.

With about half of the GOP nominating contests complete, Romney has won 54 percent of the delegates at stake, putting him on track to reach the threshold 1,144 national convention delegates in June. Santorum, who has won 27 percent of the delegates at stake, would need to win 74 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination.

MILWAUKEE (AP) — President Barack Obama’s administration launched a multi-pronged assault on Mitt Romney’s values and foreign policy credentials Sunday, while a fresh set of prominent Republicans rallied behind the GOP front-runner as the odds-on nominee, further signs the general election is overtaking the primary season.

A defiant Rick Santorum outlined plans to leave Wisconsin the day before the state’s contest Tuesday, an indication that the conservative favorite may be in retreat, his chances to stop Romney rapidly dwindling.

“I think the chances are overwhelming that (Romney) will be our nominee,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ‘’It seems to me we’re in the final phases of wrapping up this nomination. And most of the members of the Senate Republican conference are either supporting him, or they have the view that I do, that it’s time to turn our attention to the fall campaign and begin to make the case against the president of the United States.”

Both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden went after Romney Sunday, underscoring the belief inside Obama’s Chicago re-election headquarters that Romney will — sooner than later — secure the right to face Obama this fall. Their involvement comes as both sides sharpen their general election strategy, perhaps weeks before the GOP contest formally comes to an end.

“I think Gov. Romney’s a little out of touch,” Biden told CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I can’t remember a presidential candidate in the recent past who seems not to understand, by what he says, what ordinary middle-class people are thinking about and are concerned about.”

The line of attack is likely to play prominently in the Obama campaign’s general election narrative. While Obama is a millionaire, Romney would be among the nation’s wealthiest presidents ever elected. And he’s opened himself to criticism through a series of missteps.

Romney casually bet a rival $10,000 during a presidential debate, noted that his wife drives a “couple of Cadillacs,” and lists owners of professional sports teams among his friends. His personal tax records show investments in the Cayman Islands and a Swiss bank account.

Obama’s team on Sunday also seized on Romney’s foreign policy inexperience.

Biden said Obama was “stating the obvious” when he told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he would have more latitude on missile defense after the November general election. The two presidents did not realize the exchange, during a meeting in Seoul, South Korea, last weekend, was being picked up by a microphone.

Romney called it “alarming” and part of a pattern of “breathtaking weakness” with America’s foes. He asked what else Obama would be flexible on if he were to win a second term.

“Speaking of flexible, Gov. Romney’s a pretty flexible guy on his positions,” Biden said. Romney’s GOP opponents have accused the former Massachusetts governor of “flip-flopping” on issues such as health care and abortion.

Clinton seized on Romney’s comment that Russia is America’s “No. 1 geopolitical foe,” calling the statement “dated” and suggesting there were more pressing matters of concern in global affairs.

“I think it’s somewhat dated to be looking backwards instead of being realistic about where we agree, where we don’t agree,” Clinton told CNN Sunday.

“He just seems to be uninformed or stuck in a Cold War mentality,” Biden added. “It exposes how little the governor knows about foreign policy.”

But the administration’s comments may have been overshadowed Sunday by Romney’s ballooning Republican support.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., spent the weekend at Romney’s side campaigning across Wisconsin, one of three states to host Republican primaries Tuesday. First-term Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., followed Ryan’s lead Sunday morning.

“I’m coming out urging the voters of Wisconsin: ‘Let’s lead. Let’s show that this is the time to bring this process to an end so we can focus our attention on retiring President Obama,’” Johnson said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He later appeared at a pancake brunch with Romney and offered a message to “every conservative”: “I’ve spoken with Mitt, I totally believe he is committed to saving America.”

The senator joins a growing chorus of prominent Republicans calling for the party to coalesce behind Romney’s candidacy. Romney also scored former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his father, President George H.W. Bush, in recent days.

Ryan’s endorsement was particularly painful for Santorum, who had been aggressively praising the congressman — a fiscal conservative hero in Wisconsin and across the country — for much of the past week. That praise ended Saturday, when Santorum referred to Ryan as “some other Wisconsinite.”

Santorum’s senior staff outlined an increasingly unlikely path to victory that depends upon hypothetical success more than a month away.

“May is going to be a good month for us,” Santorum campaign manager Mike Biundo said. “The race goes on.”

Biundo confirmed that Santorum is aggressively working the phones to sway delegates in states like Washington, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri that have already voted. But he’s having mixed success.

“We have some (delegates) that have committed. I think most people seem to right now still be kind of waiting it out. There seems to be a lot of that that’s going on,” Biundo said.

Santorum was publicly defiant Sunday.

“Look, this race isn’t even at halftime yet,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” He said Romney “hasn’t been able to close the deal with conservatives, much less anybody else in this party. And that’s not going to be an effective tool for us to win this election.”

But with losses piling up for in other industrial states like Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, Santorum acknowledged the results in Wisconsin Tuesday will send a “strong signal” about the direction of the Republican contest.

And he appears to in retreat.

Having devoted more than a week to campaigning across Wisconsin, Santorum is scheduled to return to his home state, Pennsylvania, the day before the Wisconsin contest. Pennsylvania’s primary is more than three weeks away.

Biundo noted that Santorum moved out of Louisiana — where he won — before that state’s election day. But Santorum’s team has demonstrated far less confidence in recent days about Wisconsin than Romney, who has predicted victory here.

Trying to be upbeat, Santorum dismissed Romney’s growing support as “panic” in the Republican establishment and said seeing “everybody sort of coming out of the woodwork to say the things they’re saying today makes me feel like we’re actually doing pretty well here in Wisconsin.”

Meanwhile, Romney hopes to score a knockout blow in Pennsylvania, which hosts its primary April 24. He already has an office in Harrisburg and four paid staffers in the state, and plans to shift additional resources there after Tuesday.

With about half of the GOP nominating contests complete, Romney has won 54 percent of the delegates at stake, putting him on track to reach the threshold 1,144 national convention delegates in June. Santorum, who has won 27 percent of the delegates at stake, would need to win 74 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination.

Candidates prepare for months, sometimes years, to get ready. They give interviews in front of huge crowds of people to gain support. Intense focus is allocated for raising money through sponsors to pay for supplies for the long journey ahead. Entire staffs of people dedicate themselves to image control and maintenance: all outfits are picked out, every hair is in place and more time is spent on grooming than ever before. The competitors go against each other until, one by one, they’re forced out. Eventually, only one winner will survive.

No, I’m not talking about the movie with the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel, The Hunger Games. The seemingly post-apocalyptic future described above is actually a depiction of what’s going on in this year’s Republican presidential primary race. The original field of nine — Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney — has narrowed itself down to three contenders. Really it’s more like two because who still thinks Gingrich has a chance?

As soon as things got bloody at the Cornucopia, Sarah Palin and Donald Trump were some of the first to go. They spent too much time slinging barbs at everyone else and not enough enough time gaining supporters. Pawlenty is another one that was ousted early, much like the girl in the woods minding her own business that was killed by the Careers.

And then, there was one candidate that somehow seemed less clownish than the others, Huntsman. He came in with experience. He didn’t spend time going negative with attack ads. He seemed rational and was the great hope of the entire race. His loss in New Hampshire felt like watching the beloved Rue get stabbed in the chest with a spear all over again.

Bachmann is a good representation of the crazy girl with the knives in The Hunger Games that no one was sad to see leave. Cain was taken out by some tracker jackers — women he allegedly sexually harassed that swarmed and fought back from his past. Perry seemed like he had a good shot for awhile, but was eventually his own worst enemy and poisoned himself, like the berries that killed Foxface, with his constant missteps and blunders.

Paul is an iconoclast and distances himself from the rest, like Thresh’s technique to hide in the wheat field. Also, like Thresh, Paul has strength in his group of ardent supporters; however, it’s not enough to win the election. Gingrich then becomes Cato in this story. Just like Cato, he attacks all opponents and tries to bully his way to the top. Fortunately for all of us, we know the demons from his past, or muttations, will make sure he doesn’t make it much further.

And then we’re left with Romney and Santorum, or Peeta and Katniss. Romney, like Katniss, is the clear stronger candidate left. And just like Peeta and Katniss, can we really trust anything either one says? Or do they only say what they think will keep them alive longer in this Hunger Games style primary race? It’s for this reason that Santorum has made anti-college statements, even though when he was a Senator in 2006 he called for all Pennsylvania citizens to have access to higher education. It’s why Romney derides “Obamacare,” but instituted universal healthcare in Massachusetts, or Romneycare first. Both candidates say whatever they think will get them the most support at the time, and it’s unclear what either one actually believes.

So no matter who’s left at the end, does anyone really win? Or will the candidate be forever haunted by the transformation he underwent to survive this process? And what about the rest of us? Will we elect a hero or someone who can’t keep it together when things get tough like Katniss?

And if this is what the race for President has come down to, are we any better than the people of Panem that tune in to watch the Hunger Games every year rather than doing something to demand change?

Taylor is a Plan II and rhetoric and writing senior. 

Throughout his campaign, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has made countless outlandish remarks targeting dozens of groups in the nation. Among his targets is higher education, which he attacked for its “liberal indoctrination,” and called President Obama a “snob” for his efforts to make college tuition more affordable.

Santorum charged Obama’s hope for every “American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” as a means to impose liberal viewpoints on young, moldable minds. He argues that many Americans are more suited for vocational training or technical schools. Unfortunately, his charge of Obama’s snobbery falls flat as Obama indeed includes vocational training and technical schools in his educational goals for young Americans, not just university education. In a speech at the National Governor’s Association, Obama reiterates his belief: “We’re talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job that now is requiring somebody walking through the door, handling a $1 million piece of equipment.”

Santorum’s woes with the “indoctrination mills” that are our country’s acclaimed higher education institutions come from challenging experiences he faced at Pennsylvania State University as a student. Santorum asserted, “I went through a process where I was docked for my conservative views,” and further speculates the conservative witch hunt in universities could be worse today.

While the student body at UT is viewed as liberal, the professors and course content remain neutral. As a government major at the University, I must constantly address my political views in my coursework. My government professors have been both conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. At no point have I felt that I’ve “been docked” for my personal political beliefs, but rather constantly encouraged to adequately support these beliefs in the framework of the class. While Santorum argues we have “some real problems at our colleges with political correctness,” I have found that in class, this culture of political correctness protects all students’ political views — from the extreme left to the extreme right. In my experiences, professors are careful to accommodate to everyone’s political views while teaching their course material in a neutral manner.

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Santorum erroneously states, “62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.” According to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, indeed 64 percent of students at traditional four-year institutions curb their church attendance habits. Strikingly, however, the study also shows, “76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.” Furthermore, 20 percent of those not in college no longer identified with a religious affiliation, as opposed to 13 percent of those in college. Santorum’s views fail to account for the generally lower degree of religiosity among American youth, and instead, he attacks higher education institutions.

The University encourages a thriving and open religious community, sponsoring numerous religiously affiliated organizations. These include Christian fraternity organizations such as Brothers Under Christ, youth groups such as Young Life and religious centers such as Texas Hillel. Minority religious groups also have a place on the UT campus, with groups such as Ismaili Muslim Student Organization and Coptic Students of Texas. This past weekend, more than 3,000 UT students participated in the Hindu religious festival Holi. Religious studies sophomore Erica Deitzel recently founded an “Interfaith Prayer Breakfast” to give students a space to discuss college, life and diverse faiths.

While Santorum may have been ostracized during his college days, the University’s neutral teaching policies and vibrant religious life contradict his claims of indoctrination. Higher education gives students an opportunity to determine their political beliefs as they are exposed to new ways of thinking. Students also develop a sense of tolerance necessary for functioning in a country as diverse as the U.S., while still given the opportunity to cultivate their personal beliefs. Santorum’s anti-intellectualism disputes some of the most fundamental American values — tolerance and appreciation of diversity.

Waliany is a Plan II and government senior.

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — Backed by a crushing television ad advantage, Mitt Romney sought a strong Illinois primary victory Tuesday to solidify his lead over Rick Santorum in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. It was the latest-in a string of must-win industrial state contests for the front-runner.

Romney held a second advantage as well, this one in the competition for Illinois delegates to the party convention next summer. Santorum was ineligible for 10 of the 54 at stake after failing to field a full slate.

Neither Newt Gingrich nor Ron Paul campaigned extensively in the state.

Romney and Santorum did, though, and not always in respectful tones.

“Senator Santorum has the same economic lightweight background the president has,” Romney said at one point. “We’re not going to replace an economic lightweight with another economic lightweight.”

Santorum had a tart reply. “If Mitt Romney’s an economic heavyweight, we’re in trouble.”

Including Romney’s victory last weekend in Puerto Rico, the former Massachusetts governor had 522 delegates going into the Illinois voting, according to The Associated Press count. Santorum had 252, Gingrich 136 and Paul 50. If Romney continues on the same pace, he will lock up the nomination before the convention opens in Tampa, Fla., next August.

However, the Santorum campaign argued Tuesday that the race for delegates is closer than that.

Santorum contends the Republican National Committee at the convention will force Florida and Arizona to allocate their delegates on a proportional basis instead of winner-take-all as the state GOP decided. Romney won both states.

As Illinois Republicans voted on Tuesday, Romney raised more than $1.3 million at a luncheon in Chicago. He planned an election-night event in nearby Schaumburg, Ill., while Santorum was in Gettysburg, Pa., site of Illinois favorite son Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech.

Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, has been seeking to make up in broadcast interviews what he has lacked in advertising money.

On Monday, his campaign began before sun-up and ended well after dark, including four appearances at rallies around the state as well as an extraordinary 19 radio and television interviews. He accused Romney anew of putting his signature on a Massachusetts health insurance law that is similar to the one Obama pushed through Congress.

Romney cut short his planned time in Puerto Rico, site of a primary last weekend, to maximize his time in Illinois. He has eked out victories in other big industrial states over the past few weeks, beginning in Michigan on Feb. 28 and Ohio on March 6. Defeat in any would be likely to trigger fresh anxiety within the party about his ability to wrap up the nomination.

In Illinois, as in Michigan and Ohio, Romney enjoyed an enormous advantage in television advertising. His campaign and Restore Our Future, a super PAC that supports him, outspent Santorum and his super PAC by $3.5 million to $500,000, an advantage of 7-1.

Illinois was the 28th state to hold a primary or caucus in the selection of delegates to the nominating convention, about halfway through the calendar of a Republican campaign that has remained competitive longer than most.

A change in party rules to reduce the number of winner-take-all primaries has accounted for the duration of the race. But so has Romney’s difficulty in securing the support of the most conservative of the GOP political base. Santorum and Gingrich have struggled to emerge as the front-runner’s sole challenger from the right.

Whatever the reasons, the race appeared unlikely to end soon, with Santorum and even Gingrich vowing to campaign into the convention.

Next up is a primary Saturday in Louisiana where Santorum projects confidence following twin triumphs a week ago in Alabama and Mississippi. There are 25 delegates at stake.

Behind Louisiana is a three-primary night in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Wisconsin on April 3, with 95 delegates combined at stake.

Santorum is not on the ballot in Washington, D.C., but is ahead in opinion polls in Maryland. Wisconsin — adjacent to Illinois — shapes up as the most competitive primary of the night.

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum shared victories in yesterday's Super Tuesday contests, dueling in Ohio with a virtual tie of 37% each. No Republican has ever won the White House without securing a victory in Ohio. (Courtesy of the Associated Press)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney split six states and dueled in an almost impossibly close race in Ohio on a Super Tuesday that stretched from one end of the country to the other in the most turbulent Republican presidential race in a generation.

A resurgent Santorum broke through in primaries in Oklahoma and Tennessee and in the North Dakota caucuses, raising fresh doubts about Romney’s ability to corral the votes of conservatives in some of the most Republican states in the country.

Romney had a home-state win in Massachusetts to go with victories in Vermont and in Virginia, where neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich qualified for the ballot. He also led in early Idaho caucus returns and padded his lead for delegates to the Republican National Convention.

On the busiest night of the campaign season, Ohio was the marquee matchup, a second industrial state showdown in as many weeks between Romney and Santorum. It drew the most campaigning and television advertisements of all 10 Super Tuesday contests and for good reason— no Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state in the fall.

After trailing for much of the night, Romney forged ahead in a count that stretched toward midnight. With votes tallied in 91 percent of the state’s precincts, he led by about 5,000 votes out of 1.1 million cast.

Gingrich had a victory in his column — his first win in more than six weeks. The former House speaker triumphed at home in Georgia, but a barrage of attack ads by a super PAC supporting Romney helped hold him below 50 percent and forced him to share the delegates.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul pinned his hopes on Idaho and Alaska as he scratched for his first victory of the campaign season. As of print deadline, results in Alaska had not been called.

Whatever the outcome in Ohio, Romney was on track to pad his lead in the hunt for delegates to the Republican National Convention. Not surprisingly, given his mixed night, he focused on the delegate chase.

Yet Santorum’s multiple victories, coupled with Gingrich’s win, provided fresh evidence that Romney’s conservative rivals retain the ability to outpoll him in certain parts of the country despite his huge organizational and financial advantages.

In Ohio, Romney’s campaign purchased about $1.5 million for television advertisements, and Restore Our Future spent $2.3 million. Santorum and Red, White and Blue, a super PAC that supports him, countered with about $1 million combined, a disadvantage of nearly four to one.

While the day boasted more primaries and caucuses than any other in 2012, it was a shadow of Super Tuesday in 2008, when there were 20 Republican contests.

There was another big difference, a trend away from winner-take-all contests to a system of allocating delegates in rough proportion to a candidate’s share of the popular vote.

Sen. John McCain won eight states on Super Tuesday in 2008 and lost 12 to Romney and Mike Huckabee combined. But six of McCain’s victories were winner-take-all primaries, allowing him to build an insurmountable delegate lead that all but sealed his nomination.

CANTON, Ohio — Mitt Romney’s allies are hoping Super Tuesday’s powerful imprint on the Republican presidential nomination will bring clarity, at long last, to the fractious contest and rouse Republicans behind their front-runner. But that’s strictly up to voters across the nation, weighing in on the most consequential day of the campaign to date.
Romney and his chief rival, Rick Santorum, scrambled for any advantage they could find Monday in Ohio, the most-watched contest in the 10-state extravaganza stretching from Alaska to the southeast.

Speaking to supporters at a guardrail factory in Canton, Ohio, Romney tried to snap the subject back to the economy and away from social conservative issues — this, after a furor erupted from radio host Rush Limbaugh’s caustic comments about a college student who testified to Congress about contraception.

“I look at this campaign right now and I see a lot of folks all talking about lots of things, but what we need to talk about to defeat Barack Obama is getting good jobs and scaling back the size of government, and that’s what I do,” Romney said. “Other people in this race have debated about the economy, they’ve read about the economy, they’ve talked about it in subcommittee meetings. But I’ve actually been in it.”

Santorum told Ohioans the election must be earned, not “bought,” in another swipe at Romney’s wealth and superior campaign machine. “Look into what the candidates have overcome and what they offer to this country — not just what money they have,” he told hundreds of students and supporters at Dayton Christian School, “but where’s the soul, where’s the conviction, where’s the fight?

“Money’s not going to buy this election.”

The latest polls found Santorum slipping in Ohio, putting him in a near dead heat with Romney, and Gingrich looking strong but not invincible in his home state of Georgia, which he needs to win to have any hope of resurrecting his candidacy. Ron Paul, trailing the delegate count and the expectations game, hoped one or more of the three caucus states, Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota, would finally give him a victory.

Fully one-third of the delegates needed to clinch the nomination are at stake Tuesday, altogether a larger prize than all the previous primaries and caucuses combined. President Barack Obama picked Tuesday for his first news conference of the year, a chance to steal a bit of thunder from the Republicans on their big day and defend a record of economic stewardship that is under daily assault in the GOP campaign.

On the eve of Super Tuesday, the message coming from Republican establishment figures was clear: It’s time, if not past time, to crystallize the competition and unite the party behind the effort to defeat Obama in the fall.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, were among the latest GOP luminaries to swing behind Romney. Conservative John Ashcroft, attorney general in the George W. Bush administration and a former Missouri senator, threw his support behind Romney on Monday.

Cantor told CNN “we’re coalescing around Mitt Romney’s plan to actually address the economic challenges,” and “trying to find ways to work together and bring people together and set aside differences.”

Whether Super Tuesday marks that sort of turning point remains to be seen. Romney has been the presumed long-haul favorite from the start but Santorum’s surge unfolded as the latest in a line of surprises from a field now down to four candidates.

Gingrich, whose only victory was in the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary, has staked his campaign’s future on winning Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for 20 years, and on building a stronghold in the conservative South.

Toward that end, Gingrich scheduled stops Monday in Tennessee, where he appears to be in a close race with Santorum and Romney. Gingrich also planned to visit Alabama on Tuesday for the state’s March 13 primary before returning to Atlanta in the evening.

Santorum drew more on his personal biography than he has in recent days. He cast himself as a scrappy blue-collar fighter going up against Romney — a “country club Republican” in the words of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Santorum supporter.

“I come to the people of Ohio as a candidate who shouldn’t be here,” Santorum said. “Growing up in a steelworker town, growing up having to fight for everything you got, is exactly the kind of person that we need to have.” The former Pennsylvania senator is acknowledging that to be successful over the long haul, he will need Gingrich to get out of the race.

While Romney has a significant advantage in northeastern states such as Vermont and Massachusetts — where he was governor — and Santorum is strong in conservative states such as Oklahoma, Ohio tops the list of hotly competitive and delegate-rich contests Tuesday. Both candidates focused on the state Monday after a weekend swing through the South.

Romney has been working to make the race about the economy and to avoid intensifying the debate over conservative social values, a strong suit for Santorum. That effort was not helped when Limbaugh called a Georgetown University law student a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his nationally syndicated radio program, later apologizing.

The woman had testified at a congressional hearing in favor of an Obama administration mandate that employee health plans include free contraceptive coverage.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, denounced Limbaugh’s comments Monday, saying his remarks “should be condemned” by people across the political spectrum. The 2012 GOP candidates have dissociated themselves from Limbaugh’s comments, though not as forcefully as McCain did on CBS’ “This Morning.”

Romney has won four consecutive contests, including Saturday’s Washington caucuses. His broad, well-disciplined organization all but assures he’ll collect more delegates than his opponents on Tuesday, in contrast with Santorum’s looser group of supporters. Santorum and Gingrich did not collect enough signatures to qualify for the Virginia ballot, for example, and Santorum cannot win 18 of Ohio’s 66 delegates for similar reasons.

All told, 419 delegates are at stake Tuesday. Romney leads with 203 delegates from previous contests, Santorum has 92, Gingrich has 33 and Paul, 25. It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination.

Rick Santorum fared better than other Republican candidates by a significant margin in a recent UT and Texas Tribune poll.

The data was collected from Feb. 8 to 15 in the midst of the increasing media attention Santorum received during and prior to that time, said government professor James Henson.

“The timing of the poll was quite good for Santorum,” Henson said. “He was receiving a lot of media attention because of his success in other states and before the campaigns of his rivals started hitting back. It probably helped push those numbers up a bit.”

Despite other factors playing into the poll, Santorum’s popularity isn’t all that surprising, Henson said.

“He’s emerged as a socially conservative candidate, and those candidates tend to run very well among Texans in the Republican primary,” he said. “While there’s things about Santorum that don’t fit the Texas culture exactly right, a conservative with Santorum’s profile is going to run well.”

Mitt Romney has not had consistency in Texas thus far, but the results of the Texas primary are tough to predict from a poll taken this early, Hansen said. The date of the Texas primary is not yet set because of conflict over district lines, but it will likely take place in late May.

“If you look at the history of this race and you look at competitive primary races, any individual poll is a snapshot at a given moment,” he said. “This race has been particularly volatile and I suspect we will see some movement. There’s still a lot of water to pass under the bridge.”

College Republicans at Texas president Cassie Wright said she believes the results are subject to change.

“The atmosphere of the Republican party is an exciting one, and Santorum’s recent success in Texas polls is indicative of the general social conservatism of Texans,” Wright said. “However, as the Republican front-runner seems to change on a weekly basis, there is a good chance we will see different results in the future.”

While the results of the poll have not yet been broken down by age, Hansen said there are generally low numbers of students participating in the Republican primary electorate.

“We’ve seen some increase in interest in Republican politics on campus but we don’t have a lot to go on,” he said. “There is always a group of politically engaged college students, but by and large, the 18- to 24-year-old group has had low turnout historically.”

Undeclared freshman Meredith Englehart said she feels it’s important to vote in the primaries.

“I know elections aren’t the only way you can be politically active, but I think it’s pretty important to get your voice out there somehow,” she said.

Printed on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 as: Santorum's conservatism hooks Texas

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Philosophical differences between the top two Republican presidential candidates are becoming starker.

Rick Santorum is driving harder on religious and social issues while Mitt Romney rarely discusses them in detail.

Santorum in recent days has questioned the usefulness of public schools and said President Barack Obama’s theology is not “based on the Bible.”

Campaigning in Ohio on Monday, he likened Obama to politicians who spread fear about certain technologies “so they can control your lives.”

The remarks contrast sharply with Romney’s steady emphasis on jobs, the economy and his resume as a can-do corporate executive.

The differences give Republican voters clear choices to shape their party’s image and identity heading into the fall battle against Obama.

Printed on Tuesday, February 21, 2012 as: Santorum uses Bible to attack Obama's governance, character