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Santorum bets on Ohio for Super Tuesday

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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Rick Santorum shakes hands during during a campaign rally in Blue Ash, Ohio. (Eric Gay/AP)

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- While Republican voters in Washington state caucused Saturday afternoon, Rick Santorum was more than 2,000 miles to the east, focusing on the upcoming election in Ohio, where he traveled from the southern border near Kentucky to the north below Michigan in a day-long sweep of the Buckeye State.

Ohio, a delegate-rich mid-western state, is where Santorum has invested much of his pre-Super Tuesday resources. And it seems to be working. Santorum is polling at a statistical tie with Mitt Romeny, and the former Pennsylvania senator is banking on Ohio to launch his campaign into the next round of elections. Tuesday's multi-state, 400-plus delegate election will be a proving ground for Santorum to show voters--and perhaps more importantly, donors--that he has the organizational prowess and appeal to sustain his campaign into the dog days of spring.

"Ohio can make this election," Santorum told Republicans during a dinner for the local Republican party in Lima.

Watching him campaign here, it's clear just from the caliber of his events that Santorum's staff is pouring more money and time into this contest than other candidates. In Ohio, the campaign dispatches volunteers to ensure every supporter has a sign to wave and they must surrender their contact information before stepping in the door. These are all campaign staples, of course, but ones he has gone without in the past. There's even music playing at the Ohio rallies--a rarity at Santorum events, in comparison to his opponents. Here, Santorum is making the case that he is a legitimate candidate, but the only way he can ultimately prove that is by knocking out a few more wins in the weeks to come.

With his wife and two of his seven children in tow Saturday, Santorum underwent a near border-to-border tour of the state, speaking at a morning rally, a Fox News forum and two local Republican party dinners. He even had time to gobble down a six-inch Subway sandwich while his wife, Karen, went shopping at Wal-Mart.

Santorum started the weekend swing in Blue Ash, a Cincinnati suburb, where he was joined by Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, several local officials who have endorsed him and about 500 supporters and many children who tagged along. There, Santorum played up his role as the insurgent candidate, branding himself as "a fighter, someone who's a scrapper" and predicting a tight contest in the state.

"This race is going to be close," he said. "We are going to be outspent. But we've been outspent in every race so far. It won't make a difference if you make a difference."

After taping a show with Fox News' Mike Huckabee later that morning, Santorum stopped at a Subway in Wilmington, where he ordered a cheese steak, posed for pictures and told reporters that he was feeling strong about his chances on Tuesday, despite having a deficit of delegates because his campaign was unable to secure them in each county before the filing deadline last year.

"I'm not worried at all," he said. "This was back in November and December. Things were a little different then they are now. If you look at this campaign, we spent valuable and limited resources back in November and December to get on almost every single ballot."

"We're up against a sledgehammer here with the Romney campaign," Santorum went on to say. "But the sledgehammer keeps pounding away, we just start getting tougher."

Although Santorum will take a brief reprieve from the state on Sunday to hold rallies in Tennessee and Oklahoma, he plans to begin campaigning here first thing again Monday morning, and remain here through election night on Tuesday.

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