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Romney or Santorum? Ohio Voters Key To Republican Presidential Race

Republican voters in Ohio on March 6 will have a big voice in deciding the party's presidential nominee.

For the first time in her 74-year life as a Republican voter, Helen Hurst of Lorain County has known all along who she's supporting for president in 2012.

Hurst is for Mitt Romney, but her party doesn't share that certainty. It's led to a reality-show-like primary season starring Romney, Rick Santorum and a revolving cast of guest stars including Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich.

Now the show moves to Ohio, perhaps the most important Super Tuesday state voting March 6. Ohio is a key swing state and a decisive victory here on Tuesday bolsters the winning candidate's general election resume.

With Gingrich focused on the South and Paul looking to western caucus states for delegates, Romney and Santorum are the candidates putting the most energy into Ohio.

For Romney, an Ohio win gives him more momentum after his wins in Michigan and Arizona. A Santorum victory throws Romney's status as front runner in further doubt and serves to prolong an already stretched-out race.

Many local Republicans hope Tuesday's results -- 437 delegates are up for grabs, including 66 from Ohio -- finally push Republicans behind one candidate.

"I think all the coverage has heightened interest among Republicans, but I think they’ve had about enough of it," said Hurst, who chairs the Lorain County Republican Party. "After a while it hits the saturation point and they just want to get it done and move on to November."

Here's where things stand: Polls taken in Ohio earlier this week show , especially with men and those who identified as conservative or sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. Moderates favor Romney, according to the poll from the Quinnipiac University.

Despite the strong poll numbers, Santorum has some disadvantages. For one, he in the 6th, 9th and 13th congressional districts.

Another problem: Santorum is being outspent by Romney by a wide margin.

Political observers expect ad spending, both for television and radio spots, in Ohio to approach $5 million, with Romney and his allies spending most of it.

According to Politico, Romney and a Super PAC supporting him, Restore Our Future, has spent about $3.39 million on ads in Ohio, versus about $527,000 being spent by Rick Santorum and the Red White & Blue Fund, a pro-Santorum Super PAC. A Super PAC behind Gingrich is spending about $400,000.

In his advertising, Romney aims to undercut Santorum's strength with conservative voters by attempting to paint him as a Washington insider. Restore Our Future's ads are taking the same tact.

Traditional on-the-ground campaigning such as canvassing and direct mailings has been much less visible so far to the extent that RealClearPolitics has called Ohio's campaign a "phantom primary."

But while campaign troops may not be working the streets, the candidates are definitely working the stump here, to Ohio before Tuesday.

Santorum will be speaking in Eastlake Friday night at a Lincoln Day event for the Lake County Republican Party (Patch will have coverage of the event) and also attend an event in Bowling Green, which will also feature Gingrich. Romney will hold an event at Cleveland State University on Friday night, which will feature New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, according to the Plain Dealer. Romney, Santorum and Gingrich will also be in Wilmington, Ohio, on Saturday with Mike Huckabee taping his Fox News show "Huckabee."

Hurst said she has attended a number of political events with fellow Republicans in recent weeks and that voters' support remains.

"There are definitely different schools of thought, and I see qualities in most of them I can admire," she said. "I would say it could be fairly close."

Stephanie Brown Laymon March 02, 2012 at 11:43 AM
As someone that once considered voting for Rick Santorum it has become clear he is not the candidate he wants everyone to think he is. He constantly says he stands for one side of things but his voting records proves otherwise. It seems that each week he says something with such hatred towards others then comes back and talks of his faith. Well I found this audio clip yesterday of him speaking to of all things college students and well it sealed the deal for me and I hope it will for you as well. This man does not deserve the chance to win the GOP nomination. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/chris-hayes-digs-up-2008-santorum-speech-stating-protestants-are-gone-from-the-world-of-christianity/
Jim Strang March 02, 2012 at 11:59 AM
What? No Patch poll on our GOP fave? Why not??
Chris Mazzolini (Editor) March 02, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Jim: Ask and you shall receive! We now have a Patch poll at the end of the story.
Dave March 02, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Are there any nonpartisan issues to vote for in the Tues. primary for independents?
Bobbi Sommer March 02, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Wish you would not let all the pro-Romney ads sway you - your first instincts for Santorum were good. A speech given four years ago at a Catholic college is going to be tailored to his audience and telling them that this country is going to hell in a hand basket was not far off.
Jim Strang March 02, 2012 at 02:46 PM
Dave: Depending on where you live, there likely may be a school issue or a local zoning question. Go to the web site of your county's elections board and look for the sample ballot for your community. That will have the info.
Kate B. March 02, 2012 at 04:08 PM
As a Dem, I'm hoping Santorum gets the nomination, if only because there's no way he'll ever win the presidency!
* March 02, 2012 at 04:38 PM
"We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin, but we all belong to one human race." -- Kofi Annan
* March 02, 2012 at 04:43 PM
"World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor -- it requires only that they live together with mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement." -- John F. Kennedy "Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one's own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others." -- John F. Kennedy
* March 02, 2012 at 04:46 PM
You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist. -- Friedrich Nietzsche
* March 02, 2012 at 04:49 PM
My parents shared not only an improbable love, they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or blessed, believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success. -- Barack Obama
DerFarm March 02, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Not me. I'm praying for Ron Paul
b March 04, 2012 at 01:47 AM
FROTHY MIXTURE

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