GOP Contenders Face 13-State Test After Brief Lull

A resurgent Rick Santorum hopes to spring his next big surprise in Michigan. Newt Gingrich looks for a campaign revival in the Bible Belt. Mitt Romney has his home state of Massachusetts, and the luxury of picking his spots elsewhere, if not everywhere, as the race for the Republican presidential nomination roars back to life.

After a brief midwinter lull, the Republican field faces a cross-country series of nine primaries and four caucuses between Feb. 28 and Super Tuesday on March 6. At stake are 518 delegates, more than three times the number awarded so far in the unpredictable competition to pick a GOP opponent for President Barack Obama.

A debate on Feb. 22 in Arizona, the first in three weeks and possibly the last of the GOP campaign, adds to the uncertainty.

The political considerations are daunting as Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul weigh the cost of competing in one state against the hope of winning in a second or perhaps merely running well but gaining delegates in a third.

"Not all states are of equal importance," said Steve Schmidt, who helped the GOP's 2008 nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, navigate the campaign calendar as a senior adviser.

It will take 1,144 delegates to win the GOP presidential nomination at the August convention in Tampa, Fla.

According to numerous strategists inside and outside the campaigns, the Michigan primary on Feb. 28 shapes up as particularly important contest as Romney tries to fend off a charging Santorum one week before a 10-state night on Super Tuesday.

Yet of the 13 states, Georgia has the biggest delegate haul at stake, 76, and Gingrich can ill afford to lose now where his political career was launched in 1978.

Sensing an opportunity, the pro-Romney group Restore Our Future is targeting Gingrich in television ads in the state, hoping to deny the former House speaker a sweep of the delegates and leave some on the table for Romney to scoop up.

Not such maneuver is possible in Arizona. There, all 29 delegates go to the winner, and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is heavily favored.

"If you're the front-runner, and inevitability or electability are things that are driving the ballot, it's important to do a combination of both" win states and accumulate delegates, Schmidt said in an interview, offering a description of the situation that Romney confronts.

For Romney's rivals, first-place finishes are critical to creating or maintaining the impression of momentum, said Terry Nelson, who was a top strategist for campaign dropout Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor.

"It's going to matter more for Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich because their campaigns are more reliant on cash flows and they need the victories to maintain that," he said.

All candidates share one objective, he added. "You go from win to win."

Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the only of the four contenders without a victory so far, eyes four chances to break through: caucuses in Washington on March 3, and in North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska three days later. An unusual presidential campaign trip to Alaska is possible.

Nor are the candidates the only ones working to shape the race.

Restore Our Future, the political organization that supports Romney and has devastated Gingrich with attack ads in two states, is turning its attention to Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator.

Already, the group has spent $5 million on television advertisements combined in Arizona and Michigan through Feb. 28, and Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Georgia through Super Tuesday. The group also has commercials airing in Mississippi and Alabama.

Santorum responded with a commercial in Michigan designed to blunt the attacks and tarnish Romney. It shows a Romney lookalike wielding a machine gun that sprays mud in Santorum's direction.

When the weapon jams, the gunman tries to fix it, and ends up splattering himself instead.

The Red White and Blue Fund, which supports Santorum, is advertising in Michigan, but the former senator and his allied group are being outspent roughly 3-1 by Romney and Restore Our Future.

"We know that we're going to win some and were going to lose some, but we have the resources and the organization to go the distance even if that means a primary calendar that extends into the spring," said Gail Gitcho, communications director for Romney.

With Gingrich unable to come close to duplicating his Jan. 21 victory in South Carolina, his goals are as diminished as his campaign bank account.

"We want to aim at Washington state with 40 delegates. We want to do as best as we can in Michigan, but understanding there's a larger strategic gain for us if a consensus builds around the idea that Mitt Romney is unacceptable as the nominee," campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said.

He said Ohio, Georgia, Oklahoma and Tennessee are priorities.

A state-by-state list, with the number of delegates at stake in parentheses:

Feb. 28:

Arizona primary (29): The winner gets all the delegates, and private polling shows Romney well ahead. Candidates gather in Mesa on Feb. 22 for their first debate in three weeks.

Michigan primary (30): The relative lack of suspense about Arizona heightens the political significance of Michigan, the first of the big industrial states to vote in the Republican race. Romney, who grew up in the state, won it four years ago. Santorum's support in the polls is rising statewide as well as nationally, and he hopes for an upset that can strengthen his chances on Super Tuesday.

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March 3:

Washington caucuses (40 delegates): Santorum hoping for a victory. Three delegates go to the winner of each of the state's 10 congressional districts, an invitation for strong competition.

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March 6 (Super Tuesday, seven primaries, three caucuses, 419 delegates total)

Alaska caucuses (24): Delegates are awarded in proportion to the statewide vote. Paul may fly there in search of an elusive victory.

Georgia primary (76): Gingrich's home state when he was in Congress, and anything other than a victory would resurrect talk of a campaign exit.

Idaho caucuses (32): A large Mormon population makes this a natural fit for Romney. Santorum campaigned there last Wednesday, Paul on Friday.

Massachusetts primary (38): Romney could win all of the delegates in his home state.

North Dakota caucuses (28): Santorum made three stops in the sparsely settled state in a single day recently, and hopes to add it to his list of earlier caucus victories in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado. Paul is also hoping for success.

Oklahoma primary (40): Private polling makes this a three-way toss-up among Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, who's targeting it as part of a Southern-based revival strategy.

Ohio primary (63): A big battleground state, although the results of the Michigan primary on Feb. 28 are likely to reset the race instantly. As elsewhere, Restore Our Future, the pro-Romney Super-Pac, got the jump in television advertising.

Tennessee primary (55): One of the states Gingrich hopes will launch a comeback, and polling currently shows a competitive three-way race in a state that allocates delegates in proportion to the popular vote.

Vermont primary (17): The second New England state on the ballot, and the one with the fewest delegates of all the Super Tuesday states. Romney is favored although the delegates could be divided.

Virginia (46) : Romney figures to get all the delegates for little effort, with neither Santorum nor Gingrich on the ballot.


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  • by Anonymous on Feb 19, 2012 at 06:44 PM
    I would vote for Rick, Newt, Ron or Mitt over Hussein Obama anyday.
  • by Ron on Feb 19, 2012 at 01:11 PM
    you guys don't need to count Newt out just yet, a simple man (not simple minded) once said " it ain't over til it's over"
    • reply
      by c-had on Feb 19, 2012 at 06:38 PM in reply to Ron
      Newt is an adulterer and liar.I could never vote for an insider slime ball like him as he is the DEFINITION of a FATCAT.
  • by Barlow Location: Winterville on Feb 19, 2012 at 10:38 AM
    If Santorum can't win in Michigan after Romney through the state under the bus, he is in sad shape. Romney is on record saying he would let the auto industry go bankrupt and have hundreds of thousands lose their livelihood. Why? Because that's the way "vulture capitalists" do business. Take your pick, Santorum or Romney, neither will ever be president.
    • reply
      by obamanot on Feb 19, 2012 at 02:42 PM in reply to Barlow
      Forget what Romney says,he is out anyway!What does your almighty king messiah have to run on other than the debt,deficit,unemployment he promised would not go over 8% if the first stimulus is passed 3 years ago and it is still way over that reguardless of the skewing of the #'s,a war he started without any conscent from congress only to let the muslim brotherhood take over,defying Isreal,DADT when they have been there all along,Health Scare that the majority of companies and americans do not want,Fast and Furious,Hiring thousands of IRS agents just so they will not touch him at the exspense of americans,every man woman and child owed 35 thousand dollar 3&1/2 years ago now under king rebok obonga it is closer to 80 thousand dollars, gotta love this obamaGas,wanting to cut the number of our nukes down to 300 while china and russia stay the same or build and Iran is continueing to advance,inflation,degrading our military,more people on food stamps than ever before,more people on poverty than ever,college kids moving back in with their parents because of no work,and got to love all the money that was supposed to be spent on infrastructure that would have really helped on the unemployment #s right from the get go.The list goes on an on but also want to say that you pinnochiobama said himself and I Quote"If I Can Not Fix This Economy In 3 Years Than I Am A 1 Termer"!Well guess What?YOU KNOW IT!
  • by soothsayer on Feb 19, 2012 at 09:22 AM
    Rick Santorum is unelectable! Any candidate who says contraceptives are wrong in 2012 can not be elected in the US. If the republican party nominates this guy Obama will win easily. Santorum will only win a few southern states and a couple out west,to have a chance they better nominate Romney and that will only be a slim one at best
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 19, 2012 at 09:48 AM in reply to soothsayer
      You may be right, but if you are, it just shows how degenerate this country has become, and in that case, it deserves 4 more years of the America-destroying Obama.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Feb 19, 2012 at 11:06 AM in reply to Anonymous
        It seems to me that the GOP is just as degenerate and incompetent as who we have right now. Look at the way they bash each other like a bunch of little kids being caught doing something wrong at school and blaming the other.
    • reply
      by soothslayer on Feb 19, 2012 at 12:04 PM in reply to soothsayer
      What a load of libterdial dung.He was asked the question about states having the rights to ban contraceptives and he said he thought states had the right under the constitution.He did not say they were wrong.I guarentee you he dont give a rats behind about this stupid non issue libterdial george stephahopoulos came up with.amabo knows he cant run on the abortion issue so they come up with this horse hockey to try an attack Santorum on such a bogus non issue.
    • reply
      by c-had on Feb 19, 2012 at 06:36 PM in reply to soothsayer
      Man you really twist the truth to suit your agenda.He didnt say they were wrong, he said people and institutions shouldnt be forced to pay for things against their religion.Guess what?Hes right.Its in the Constitution, you should read it sometime.That being said, RON PAUL 2012!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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