With Win in Hand from La., Santorum Eyes Wis.

Sunday, 25 Mar 2012 06:02 AM

By Newsmax Wires

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum vows to continue his campaign, despite an increasingly steep climb to the nomination.

Santorum won Saturday's GOP primary in Louisiana but didn't narrow the delegate gap. He's urging his supporters to stick with him even as much of the party establishment has coalesced around Romney's increasingly inevitable coronation.

"The people of Louisiana sent a loud and clear message," Santorum said to supporters in Green Bay, where he was campaigning in advance of Wisconsin's April 3 primary. "This race is long and far from over."

Santorum seems unwilling to acknowledge it will take a dramatic change in momentum to deny Romney his turn as the Republican nominee.

Romney remains far ahead of Santorum, with 568 delegates to 273 delegates, according to The Associated Press' tally. Newt Gingrich follows with 135 and Ron Paul with 50.

None yet has reached the 1,144 delegates it will take to clinch the nomination, keeping Santorum's hopes alive for now.

In Louisiana, Santorum won the votes of nearly half of conservatives and tea party supporters. He was doing slightly better than that among those without college degrees — a measure of blue-collar voters.

The devoutly and openly religious Santorum also showed his usual strength among white born-again and evangelical voters, and among the nearly three-quarters of Louisiana voters who said it is important that they share religious beliefs with their candidate.

In another area where he was turning in one of his best showings, more than 4 in 10 Saturday cited Santorum as the candidate who best understands the typical American, nearly doubling the number citing Romney for that quality.

Only around 1 in 5 Louisiana voters said they were influenced by a comment by a Romney aide likening his campaign's tactics to an Etch A Sketch toy, even though it was one of the week's big political stories.

Those who said the remark played an important role in their choice were leaning toward Santorum over Romney by almost a 3-1 margin. But Santorum was also leading by double digits among those saying the comment was not significant for them.

Asked whether Romney's positions in the GOP primary might make him too conservative for more moderate voters in November's general election, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom had said the campaign could start over in the fall. Romney's opponents said the remark shows he shifts his views too easily.

"Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up" and start all over again, Fehrnstrom said.

The few groups where Romney led in Louisiana included people earning over $200,000 a year and people saying it didn't matter if they shared religious beliefs with a presidential contender.

Around 2 out of 3 Louisiana voters said they strongly support their candidate, one of the strongest measures of intensity in any state so far. But majorities also said they would be content if Romney, Santorum or former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ultimately won the nomination.

Even as some national Republican leaders have started calling for Romney's rivals to drop out and begin uniting the party for the fall campaign, only about 1 in 4 Louisiana voters said they want the GOP contest to end quickly, even if their contender loses. Seven in 10 said they were happy for the party's internal battle to continue as long as their candidate wins.

Just over half of Louisiana voters said the economy is the issue they most care about, a bit more than the number of voters have typically said in other states.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
 

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