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In Mississippi, Santorum makes case for two-man race

 

JACKSON, Miss. -- Rick Santorum called on Mississippi voters to deliver the knockout blow that would end Newt Gingrich's candidacy and make it a two-man race between Mitt Romney and the former Pennsylvania senator for the Republican nomination.

"You have an opportunity here in Mississippi to narrow this race, narrow this race to a conservative versus the insider moderate. I ask you here tonight to stand with me," Santorum told a crowd of 300 at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum on Wednesday. "If we win Mississippi, this will be a two-person race. And if it is a two-person race, we will nominate a conservative as president of the United States."

The remarks came hours after a Gingrich spokesman said Mississippi and Alabama are must wins for the former Speaker to continue as a viable candidate.

While Santorum and his advisers have not directly called for Gingrich to exit the race, a senior strategist on Tuesday told reporters that they would rally conservative and tea party voters to call on his rival to drop out. "Red, White, and Blue Fund," the pro-Santorum Super PAC on Wednesday sent out an e-mail urging Gingrich to exit the race.

After narrowly losing to Romney by narrow margins in both Ohio and Michigan, the Sanrtorum campaign placed a renewed emphasis on pushing the argument that Gingrich is taking conservative votes from them. The result, they argue, is an inevitable Romney nomination. Ron Paul also remains in the race and has a strong but small base that has not taken votes from Santorum.

Santorum has made the case that he is the more genuine and honest candidate, taking a shot at Romney for using a teleprompter during his Super Tuesday speech the previous night. "Unlike some candidates last night, I didn't have a teleprompter last night ... We don't need any more candidates for presidents, or presidents, who are out there delivering someone else's message that has been poll tested, has been marketed to sell you something," he said.

While scoring victories in Oklahoma, Tennessee, and North Dakota on Tuesday, Santorum held a rally in Steubenville, Ohio at the local high school. The campaign wanted the contrast of one candidate in a small, blue collar town in southeast Ohio going against Romney, who spoke at hotel in Boston.

Romney advisers today said it would take "an act of God" for their candidate to lose the nomination.

"I don’t know about you Governor Romney, but I think it was a blessing and an act of God for us to even be on this stage tonight and I thank God for that," Santorum responded.

"We are connecting, not because everyone agrees with what I’m saying, but people know what I’m saying is what I truly believe is right for this country."