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Why Rick Santorum could lose in Pennsylvania, his home state

Rick Santorum is leading in Pennsylvania polls now. But Pennsylvania fits the profile of states that Mitt Romney has won.

By Patricia ZengerleReuters / March 26, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum speaks during the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference in Camp Hill, Penn., Saturday March 24, 2012. .

Ap photo/Jason Minick

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Villanova, Penn.

A staunch conservative from a moderate state, Rick Santorum is unlikely to get much home comfort in Pennsylvania as he tries to stay near the front of the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

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Early opinion polls show Santorum leading main rival Mitt Romney ahead of the April 24 primary in Pennsylvania, a state he represented in Congress for 16 years before being resoundingly voted out of the Senate in 2006.

But Santorum faces a tough fight to hold his lead in a state where he must win - and win well - to keep his presidential ambitions afloat.

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Compared to most of the states where Santorum has done well, Pennsylvania is larger and wealthier and television advertising is expensive in its big cities. That is all typical of places where the better organized and well-financed Romney has triumphed.

In the heavily populated Philadelphia area, where Pennsylvania will be won or lost in November's general election, even Republicans are moderate on cultural issues such as abortion rights and gay marriage, a problem for Santorum, who is known best for unflinching religious conservatism.

"There isn't any doubt that his positions on cultural issues are at odds with the Republican voters in the Philadelphia suburbs," said Terry Madonna, a long-time Santorum observer and professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

"Republican voters in the Philadelphia suburbs are more liberal on gays, guns and abortions than the Democrats in any part of the state with the exception of inner-city Philadelphia," he said.

A narrow victory may not be enough for Santorum, who could be under pressure on primary night to quit the race if Romney wins big in other liberal states like New York and Connecticut which hold primaries on the same night as Pennsylvania.

The polls that put Santorum ahead do not make him a strong home-state front-runner compared to his rivals' performances on their home turf.

Romney took an overwhelming 72 percent of the vote in the primary in Massachusetts, where he was governor. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, running third in national polls, won his home state Georgia with 47 percent.

A Quinnipiac University poll on March 14 showed Santorum with 36 percent support in Pennsylvania. Romney was at 22 percent in the poll but he had trailed early in other large states, including Illinois and Florida, that he went on to win easily.

"So far this primary season, Romney has shown an ability in major states to come back through his own organization, his ties to the party organization and his ability to buy a lot more television time than Santorum can afford," Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said.

POPULARITY CONTEST

Santorum has prospered mostly in Republican bastions where evangelical Christians play a big role in party politics, such as Louisiana, where he comfortably won Saturday's primary.

Santorum is expected to do well with such voters in the rural center of Pennsylvania and they could deliver victory if turnout is low in the east and west.

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