Super Tuesday: Santorum Takes Tennessee, Oklahoma

(AFP) Rick Santorum supporters began partying in celebration of Super Tuesday wins in Oklahoma and Tennessee, crossing their fingers as the crucial Republican presidential contest in Ohio went down to the wire.

An enthusiastic crowd, including entire families and a group of Catholic nuns, crammed into the gymnasium at Steubenville High School, in Ohio, cheering as partial results from the primaries came in over a giant screen showing Fox News.

Santorum was expected shortly in the gymnasium, where the throng of hundreds was kept entertained with music ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bruce Springsteen, while keeping a close eye on the television screen.

Although the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney, also quickly notched up several wins out of the 10 Super Tuesday states, the Santorum campaign was its usual punchy self.

Santorum campaign strategist John Brabender was already talking up the future primaries such as Kansas and Mississippi. "Believe me, there is no resting in this campaign," he told reporters.

Santorum chose Steubenville for his election night party because the town fits his base: a small, blue-collar town of churches, both working and defunct steel mills, and close to his native Pennsylvania.

Santorum has been telling voters that he wants to fight for small town America, "the heart and soul" of the country, and Tuesday was his biggest chance to find out if his love is being requited.

The crowd waiting to greet Santorum in the school gymnasium was almost entirely white, but colorful in other ways. It included four jovial nuns and an old man wearing a sweatshirt that read, "How's that hope and change working for you?" -- a derisive reference to Obama's feel good slogans during his victorious 2008 campaign.

Two knee-high boys came in with their parents, wearing baseball caps that said: "Coal equals jobs."

Danny Mosti, just retired as police chief in the nearby small town of Toronto, said he comes from a hardcore pro-Democratic family but hates Obama so much and is so angry about rising energy costs that he'll now vote for Santorum.

"I'll never vote Democrat again. I wised up. Anyone who goes to put gas in their car can't vote Democrat again," the burly 62-year-old said. Obama "is destroying the country."

Brabender dismissed Romney as "Obama lite" but he suggested that in order for Santorum to win the campaign, Newt Gingrich, currently scrapping for third place, would have to leave the race.

Santorum has lost several primaries to Romney only because Gingrich split the conservative Republican vote, Brabender said. "Conservatives and Tea Party folks are going to have to make a decision."

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