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Santorum hits campaign restart in Pennsylvania

Santorum hits campaign restart in Pennsylvania

Republican Rick Santorum campaigned across Pennsylvania, insisting after a triple loss to rival Mitt Romney that winning his home state will light a fire under his struggling White House bid.

Front runner Romney swept the contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and the US capital – Washington DC – on Tuesday, tightening his grip on the lead in the Republican race to see who will challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in the November 6 election.

But Santorum, a former US senator from Pennsylvania who lost his seat in an election debacle in 2006, called on supporters in this picturesque town to help him “start this campaign anew” with a win on April 24 that could propel him to further victories in May and blunt Romney’s efforts to be crowned the nominee.

Earlier in the day, as Santorum kicked off what will be three weeks of intense campaigning in the state, he admitted it was make-or-break for him in Pennsylvania.

Romney has drawn much of the air out of the Republican nomination battle, directing his attacks not at party rivals like Santorum or House speaker Newt Gingrich but at Obama.

In a speech in Washington — before also heading to Pennsylvania to kick off his state campaign — Romney blamed Obama for failing to turn around the US economy quickly enough and creating a “government-centered society.”

With Romney acting like the presumptive nominee, calls have grown for Santorum to bow out of the race, but the arch-conservative is doing nothing of the sort.

The month of May “looks very good,” Santorum said, referring to contests in Indiana, North Carolina, Arkansas, Kentucky and Texas — all in the US Midwest or South, regions where Santorum’s campaign has gained traction.

State Senator John Eichelberger introduced Santorum in Hollidaysburg by stressing the candidate’s conservative credentials on social issues and fiscal prudence.

He also urged Santorum to criticize the president more directly.

Santorum has needed no prompting to attack Obama’s policies.

Part of that control has led to an attack on religious freedoms and erosion of gun ownership rights under Obama, said Santorum, as he sought to revive a political firestorm that erupted in the 2008 campaign over guns and religion.

Obama’s comments, which went viral in April 2008, were interpreted by many blue-collar voters as a condescending swipe at a vast swathe of Americans. Santorum’s remarks were a blunt reminder that many are still stung by the remark.

Romney has 655 delegates, well over half the 1,144 needed to win the Republican nomination at the party’s national convention in August.

Santorum has 272 delegates, according to a RealClearPolitics tally, while Gingrich has 140 and congressman Ron Paul has 67.

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