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Santorum likens campaigning to bowling in Wisconsin

LA CROSSE, WIS. -- If it were up to Rick Santorum, the Wisconsin primary would come down to a bowling match.

For the third time in four days, the former Pennsylvania senator visited a bowling alley in the Badger State. Between frames, he casually took questions from reporters, seeming confident he could outperform rival Mitt Romney on the lanes. "I think we should maybe decide Wisconsin in a match, what do you think? Just come here, we'll say we'll put it all on the line," Santorum said.

While the GOP hopeful rolled a turkey -- three strikes in a row -- during his first bowling alley campaign stop, on Wednesday the magic was gone. After seven frames, his score sat at a measly 88.

Afterward, he told a local reporter that the aggressive bowling schedule may be taking its toll. "I think some of the reporters accurately noted that I have dead arm a little bit. It's like everything else in the campaign. You have to fight through it. You know, you have to play through injuries and dead-arm periods and keep fighting," Santorum said.

The past 24 hours have been a mix of good and bad news for Santorum.

Newt Gingrich, who Santorum aides say has drastically cut into their vote totals,  dramatically scaled down his campaign. But the former House speaker has not dropped out of the race. And as the Wisconsin primary seems to be slipping away, new polling shows the race tightening in his home state of Pennsylvania.

 "I think we'll do well here. The question is how well," Santorum said in response to a question about the importance of Wisconsin.

Advisers to the campaign have acknowledged April will be a tough month.  A spread-out calendar of primary states unfavorable to Santorum will only make it more difficult for him to remain relevant as a top contender to front-runner Mitt Romney.  Internally, the campaign feels that slogging through April can get them to May, where winning delegate-rich Texas can get them back in the conversation.

But the Keystone State's April 24 primary could prove problematic for the southwest Pennsylvanian. An oft-repeated argument on the campaign trail has been that both Romney and Gingrich got off to strong starts in the primary by winning states near their homes. Despite his double-digit loss in the 2006 Senate race, Santorum has cited Pennsylvania as a state where he will do well.

Responding to a question about the importance of winning his home state, Santorum would only say "We have every intention of winning Pennsylvania."

The majority of Santorum's campaign will be in Wisconsin leading up to Tuesday's primary. And he's hoping to get back some of the luck he had at a bowling alley on Saturday, the day he won the Louisiana primary.

"Now it’s time for Wisconsin to do what I did the other day in Sheboygan," Santorum said at a Wednesday morning rally in Sparta, Wis.

"Not just bowl one strike, not just bowl two strikes, but to bowl three strikes in a row and knock Obama out of the game by electing Rick Santorum."