Santorum looks for momentum with win in Kansas caucuses

TOPEKA, Kan. — Aiming to extinguish Newt Gingrich's campaign and emerge as Mitt Romney's sole rival, Rick Santorum stumped in Kansas on Friday, the day before the state's caucuses and four days before contests in Alabama and Mississippi.

"We have an opportunity to potentially narrow this race down so we can go one-on-one with Gov. Romney, and once that happens, the conservative will be nominated," Santorum told about 250 people at a campaign stop in Topeka, the capital. He also campaigned in Wichita.

The state's Republican voters, who will decide how to parcel out 40 delegates, are expected to choose Santorum over Gingrich and Romney, who both opted not to campaign here this week. Gingrich, who has won only in two Southern states, ditched an extensive schedule in Kansas to focus on primaries in the South.

"This is pretty much Rick Santorum country this year," said Joe Aistrup, a political science professor at Kansas State University, explaining that the former Pennsylvania senator's uncompromising stances on social issues, including abortion, appeal to die-hard conservatives who show up at caucuses. "It'd be bigger news if Santorum didn't win."

Santorum, signing posters after his speech, would not say that he believed he had to win the state, but said, "If I win in Kansas, that's a great boost to us going into Tuesday."

Shadowing Santorum was Rep. Ron Paul, whose followers typically give his lagging campaign a boost in caucus states. Paul, who plans to attend four of the 96 caucus sessions today, finished third in Kansas four years ago, ahead of Romney.

Caucuses also were being held today in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands, which have nine delegates each. Romney won all of Guam's delegates at a state convention, where his son Matt spoke on his behalf. Matt Romney also visited the Northern Marianas, which, like Guam, are on the other side of the International Date Line.

Santorum looks for momentum with win in Kansas caucuses 03/09/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 9, 2012 11:16pm]

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