GOP showdown arrives

Hopefuls look to results of primary season's big event
March 6, 2012 8:08 am
  • Rick Santorum greets students at the Dayton Christian School in Miamisburg, Ohio.
    Rick Santorum greets students at the Dayton Christian School in Miamisburg, Ohio.
  • Mitt Romney works the crowd at a town hall meeting at Taylor Winfield in Youngstown.
    Mitt Romney works the crowd at a town hall meeting at Taylor Winfield in Youngstown.
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CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio -- Super Tuesday could be remembered as the beginning of the end.

A Mitt Romney victory in Ohio today and a commanding lead in delegates across the 10-state competition could rekindle the sense of inevitability that the former Massachusetts governor once counted on in the Republican presidential nomination battle.

Or it could be merely the end of the beginning -- a campaign transitioning to a state-by-state trek through the spring with no candidate able to outdistance the sound of his rivals' threatening footsteps. That's the scenario that might loom if former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum were to retake Ohio, whose lead he once held, and win in states such as Tennessee and Oklahoma.

The leading GOP candidates campaigned Monday across Ohio, seeking last-minute support in a state that has emerged as the pivotal contest on a day that will award more delegates than in all the previous contests combined in the tumultuous nomination battle.

In this Summit County town just north of Akron, Mr. Santorum again hammered his principal opponent for having signed a health care plan that included an individual mandate, insisting that record would rob Republicans of one of their greatest issue opportunities against President Barack Obama.

Before an enthusiastic crowd overflowing a community center, Mr. Santorum said the similarities between the Massachusetts and national health care laws would make Mr. Romney "the weakest candidate we could possibly put forward."

After a week of erosion in his lead in public polls in the state, Mr. Santorum contended that Mr. Romney had repeatedly dissembled in asserting that the two measures were fundamentally different.

"Now we know that Governor Romney, for the course of this campaign, has told the people of this country something that wasn't true," he said. "It's one thing to have bad policy; it's another thing to mislead the American public."

Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com.
First Published 2012-03-05 23:25:01

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