2012 ELECTION

GOP hopefuls scramble towards Super Tuesday

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Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, was having none of it. Seemingly confident of a primary victory in Georgia, where he launched his political career more than three decades ago, he unveiled a new television commercial in Tennessee promising to reduce the rising cost of gasoline.

Republican rivals Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. (Photo: Associated Press)

Eager to demonstrate his staying power, he said the commercial would soon begin running in Alabama and Mississippi, which hold primaries next week, and he announced a list of supporters in Kansas, where caucuses are on the schedule for Saturday.

The fourth man in the race, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, campaigned in Idaho after a weekend visit to Alaska, where he hopes to claim his first victory of the campaign. Romney has won four contests in a row, including a double-digit victory in Washington state caucuses on Saturday.

He has 203 delegates in the Associated Press count, while Santorum has 92, Gingrich 33 and Paul 25.

It takes 1,144 to win the nomination at the convention in Tampa, Fla., next summer.

Romney's itinerary on Monday underscored the extent to which the campaign for the nomination has changed from closely watched statewide contests into to an all-out battle for individual delegates.

While he hoped to win the Ohio primary outright, he arranged stops in Canton and Youngstown, in and around areas where Santorum isn't eligible for all the delegates available on Tuesday.

Santorum was hampered by his failure to file any delegates in three of the state's 16 congressional districts.

That meant he was forfeiting any chance at nine of the 63 at stake, even if he won statewide.

More damaging to their hopes of stopping Romney, Santorum and Gingrich failed to qualify for the Virginia primary ballot, and Romney appeared in line to capture all 46 delegates there.

The former Massachusetts governor also has virtually no competition on his home turf in that state, with 38 delegates, and little in Vermont, with 17 more. Romney pressed his advantage in other ways, from personal endorsements to a huge disparity in television ads across the country.

One day after winning the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, he drew backing from former Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Romney has long claimed he is the most electable of all the Republicans in the race, and the endorsements were a fresh sign that the party establishment has begun to rally to his side.

While Santorum recently reported taking in $9 million in campaign donations in February, he was outspent across the board on television.

In Ohio, Romney's campaign paid $1 million for television advertisements, and Restore Our Future, which supports him, spent an additional $1.5 million. Santorum and Red, White and Blue, a super PAC that supports Gingrich, countered with about $500,000 combined, according to information on file with the Federal Election Commission, a deficit of approximately 5-1.

In Tennessee, where Romney did not purchase television time, Restore Our Future spent more than $600,000 to help him. Santorum paid for a little over $100,000, and Winning our Future, a super PAC that backs Gingrich, about $470,000.

In Georgia, where Gingrich acknowledged he must win, the pro-Romney super PAC spent nearly $1 million in hopes of holding Gingrich below 50 percent of the vote.

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