After Tuesday, GOP rivals turn next to Ohio
FLINT, Mich. ( AP) — Regardless of the outcome of Republican presidential primaries in Michigan and Arizona on Tuesday, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum appear headed for a showdown next week in Ohio.
Both candidates plan to dash there later this week. The candidates and their allies already are spending heavily on advertising in the Buckeye State. It’s one of 10 that vote a week from Tuesday, with 419 delegates to the Republican National Convention at stake.
“An awful lot of Ohioans are just tuning in to this,” said Terry Casey, a veteran Republican campaign strategist in that state. “It’s going to be a sprint.”
Beyond Ohio, Romney was looking to contests in the West while Santorum focuses on the South.
Rival Newt Gingrich, seeking to inject momentum into his struggling bid, was working to make his stand in his former home state of Georgia and nearby Southern states that also vote on the mega-contest day of March 6. The former House speaker told reporters Sunday: “We hope to win in Georgia, we hope to do well in Oklahoma and Tennessee. We may surprise people in Idaho. We think we have a real fighting chance in Ohio.”
Ron Paul also planned events in upcoming states, showing no willingness to abandon his quest to rack up enough delegates to ensure his followers have a voice at the late summer convention and that the Republican Party which once spurned him welcomes him back into the fold.
All of the divergent strategies suggest the race could go deep into March — if not beyond — without giving any of the candidates a significant edge.
It’s a scenario that all the candidates are anticipating.
“Look, this is going to be a long race, and there’s going to be some ups and downs,” Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
On “ Fox News Sunday,” Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, chimed in with: “How long the process goes on, I think it’s hard to predict.”
Gingrich argued that a drawn-out campaign would give states like California, which holds its primary June 5, a large role in the nominating contest.
Heading into Tuesday’s contests, Romney leads in the race to amass the most delegates with 123. Santorum has 72, while Gingrich and Paul have 32 and 19, respectively. The totals include endorsements from Republican National Committee members who will automatically attend the party’s national convention and can support any candidate they choose.
A candidate needs 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination.
Both Arizona and Michigan each lost half their delegates for holding contests before March 6.
Whoever wins Arizona, where polls show Romney with a lead, will get all 29 of the state’s delegates. But Michigan will divide its 30 delegates by giving two to the winner of each of the 14 congressional districts in the state. The final two delegates are awarded in proportion to the statewide vote, probably to the top two candidates, if both get more than 25 percent of the vote.
Washington’s caucuses are Saturday, when 40 delegates are at stake, followed by Super Tuesday contests in Alaska ( 24), Georgia ( 76), Idaho ( 32), Massachusetts (38), North Dakota (28), Oklahoma ( 40), Ohio ( 63), Tennessee (55), Vermont (17) and Virginia (46). Also, Wyoming Republicans will hold county conventions from March 6 through March 10, with 12 delegates up for grabs.