The Ticket

Santorum’s Wisconsin primary gamble: A win could stretch campaign into spring

Chris Moody
The Ticket

HUDSON, Wis.—Rick Santorum kicked off a last minute push through the state of Wisconsin Friday in hopes of securing a much-needed April 3 win he says will help the campaign survive a three-week break in the primary schedule.

Speaking to supporters at the Hudson Golf Club on Friday, Santorum told the crowd his campaign could hinge on their vote.

"You have an opportunity here to make a huge difference in the country, not just in Wisconsin," Santorum told about 200 supporters. "You've got a great and very important race going on."

It's not something Wisconsinites are accustomed to hearing from a presidential candidate in the spring, but this year, when every state primary and caucus is make-or-break for the insurgent Republicans challenging Mitt Romney, all eyes are on Wisconsin and its 42 delegates. A win here would signal to Santorum donors that they might still have a dog in the fight.

"If Wisconsin comes through for us, we've got a three-week hiatus and we head to Pennsylvania," Santorum said. "And then the map looks really good for us in May. We have a great map of conservative states. States that already most polls have us leading. This race is a long way from over."

To accomplish this, Santorum faces an uphill climb. He still trails Romney in public opinion polling in Wisconsin, but as in past contests where Santorum came from behind at the last minute, his numbers appear to be improving.

[Related: New Wisconsin poll shows Romney up by 7 points] 

"The polls that you've seen are tight," Santorum said. "We were down 13, and then down 8, then down 7, now we're down 5. I like that trend."

To fill the gap, Santorum is implementing his Iowa strategy of visiting voters all over the state. The former Pennsylvania senator has eight stops scheduled in the state over the next few days, a journey that will span hundreds of miles.

"We're out hustling," Santorum said. "I know Gov. Romney's doing an event today. First time. We're gonna go out and do four or five events today. We've been traveling all throughout the state. We're going to the north country, we're going north, south, east, west, whatever. Every hamlet, we're hitting. We're working hard."

Santorum did, however, face a blow with the news that Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, whose ambitious budget plan was just approved by the Houseendorsed Romney. Santorum, who said he supports the thrust of Ryan's plan but wishes it would cut more programs and spending, brushed off questions about Ryan's endorsement of his chief rival.

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"Talk to political pundits," Santorum said as he shook hands with  supporters at the country club. "I'm running for office."

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