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Santorum loss in Ohio would make it ‘more difficult’ for him to win nomination, Portman says

at 11:07 AM ET, 03/05/2012

CANTON, Ohio — Stumping with Mitt Romney here Monday morning, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) dismissed the notion that a loss in the Buckeye State Tuesday would be a major blow to the former Massachusetts governor’s White House ambitions.


Sen. Rob Portman introduces Mitt Romney at a campaign event on Feb. 20, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Mark Lyons - Getty Images)

Rather, Portman told reporters after Romney’s event here at a steel guardrail manufacturing plant, it’s former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) who has more at stake in Ohio.

“I think it’s more damaging to Rick Santorum if he doesn’t win, because he’s been up even double digits in the polls as recently as last week — Rick Santorum has,” Portman told reporters. “So, the expectation is that Santorum will do very well here. And if he does not, then I think it’s more difficult for him to make the argument that he is able to win enough delegates to be the nominee.”

Portman, who endorsed Romney shortly before January’s South Carolina primary, also argued that Santorum’s failure to qualify for delegates in all of Ohio’s congressional districts — as well as in the state of Virginia — should be a cause for concern among GOP primary voters.

“President Obama, for all his faults as a president, is better at campaigning than governing, and he’s going to have a tough operation,” Portman said. “They will be very effective at the political side of things. And we need to have a candidate who is equally well-organized and able to take the fight to President Obama. So, I would be concerned about a candidate who can’t get on the ballot or has no signatures for delegates. I mean, you need to have an organization that is top-flight in order to win in the fall.”

In his speech here Monday morning, Romney focused squarely on the economy after a weekslong stretch during which the campaign has taken a detour to social issues, including the debate over religious-affiliated institutions and contraception.

Portman echoed Romney’s emphasis on economic issues, noting that Stark County is a swing area that went for Obama in 2008 but voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.

“It is a classic swing area, and I think the economy was the main reason that President Obama did better,” Portman said. “And now those same voters are looking at what’s happened in the last three-and-a-half years — with gas prices doubling and home prices going down and unemployment continuing to be over eight percent and jobs having been lost — and they’re thinking it’s time to try something new. And that’s why I think Mitt Romney will play very well in this part of the state.”

Both Romney and Santorum are holding three events in the Buckeye State Monday. Romney heads east this morning to Youngstown, while Santorum holds an afternoon rally in Westerville, just outside of Columbus.

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