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Santorum: "We have to win" in Pennsylvania

 

CARNEGIE, PA -- If there was any question about how important Pennsylvania is to Rick Santorum's presidential campaign, the former Keystone State senator put it to rest today: It's a must win.
 
Speaking to reporters after a stop here at Bob's Diner, Santorum nodded his head as he faced a question about whether or not he needs to defeat rival Mitt Romney in his home state for his campaign to continue. "We have to win here," he stated. "As I said last night, the people of Pennsylvania know me."
 
After losing Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, DC (where he was not on the ballot), Santorum's long-shot chance at the GOP nomination became even longer Tuesday night. He has guaranteed a win in the state he represented for 16 years in Congress. But now, with his back against the wall and calls for him to exit the race growing louder, he acknowledges the need for a victory on April 24.   
 
Hours earlier, campaign aides were more measured when addressing the importance of Pennsylvania. Moments after Santorum exited the stage on Tuesday night as results from the Badger State showed a Romney victory, Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters the state would be just as important to Romney as it is to Santorum.
 
“Pennsylvania is pivotal to our campaign. But it’s pivotal to Romney’s as well because it's – if we head into May with that win, we have momentum going into the states that swing back in our direction. And that’s his worst nightmare, because he wanted this thing to be over a long time ago," Gidley said.
 
Campaign aides point to the delegate-rich Texas, which holds its primary at the end of May, as the light at the end of a tough tunnel. But Pennsylvania is the only state Santorum has a realistic shot at winning in the month of April, and going into next month without momentum could cost the lead in even his most favorable of states.
 
On top of that, the state that Santorum calls home is also the one that delivered him a nearly 20-point loss in his 2006 Senate re-election bid. While his presidential campaign has largely been viewed as an underdog success story, a loss in Pennsylvania could mean he exits the race with another tough loss in his home state.
 
But Santorum feels times have changed, and so have the wants of the electorate.
 
“It’s a whole different world this time around. First of all, I’m running for president, not running for the Senate," he said. "It’s a whole different environment."

"The contrast we can provide in this election, someone from a blue-collar, working-class town in Butler, Pennsylvania, grew up in government housing, who clawed his way ... through the political process, never being anybody’s favorite, always being the underdog, always being someone that that was discounted, and I think folks in Pennsylvania have, for a long time, admired that story and can relate to that story. And I think they will again in this election cycle," he said.