Bloomberg News

Santorum Woos Wisconsin as Louisianans Vote

March 24, 2012

As voters went to the polls in Louisiana, Rick Santorum told Wisconsin Republicans that Mitt Romney is an inconsistent conservative who shouldn’t be trusted with their party’s presidential nomination.

“My public policy isn’t written on an Etch A Sketch,” he said today in Milwaukee. “It’s written on my heart because I’m a conservative.”

The comment, made after his daughter handed him the red children’s toy that allows drawings to be easily erased, followed a statement earlier this week by one of Romney’s top aides on national television that suggested his candidate will get a fresh start on policy positions if he wins the nomination.

“You hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Eric Fehrnstrom told CNN on March 21. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Santorum has seized on the statement ever since, including at his appearance today at a forum hosted by Americans for Prosperity, an organization aligned with the Tea Party movement and its opposition to federal spending and taxes.

“When people vote for president, they want to vote for someone they trust, someone who’s authentic, someone who won’t say anything to get elected,” he said.

Next Contests

Wisconsin’s April 3 primary and primaries the same day in Maryland and Washington, D.C., will be the next contests in the fight for the Republican presidential nomination.

With more rural and working-class voters, Wisconsin offers a more favorable demographic mix for Santorum than Illinois, where Romney beat him by 12 percentage points on March 20.

Santorum, 53, was scheduled to campaign in Wisconsin for the rest of the weekend, while Romney is taking the weekend off from the campaign trail.

“Wisconsin is going to be shaping up to maybe be the turning point in this race,” Santorum said. “I suspect that Wisconsin may be the inflection point.”

Santorum mocked Romney’s wealth and experience as a private equity executive.

“We need someone on the Republican ticket who’s not a financier from Wall Street,” he said.

Governor Walker Recall

The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania told those gathered at the forum near Milwaukee’s airport that he also supports the state’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, who is facing a recall election, tentatively set for June 5, that was triggered by anger over anti-union legislation he backed last year.

“Thank you for electing your great and courageous governor and standing behind him,” Santorum said.

Polls have shown Santorum with the advantage in Louisiana, propelled by evangelical Christians who have backed his bid. Voting in that state ends at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

There are 20 delegates at stake today in Louisiana’s contest and they will be awarded proportionally among candidates that earn more than 25 percent of the vote.

Santorum told reporters in Milwaukee that he expects to do “really, really well” in Louisiana.

At stake in Wisconsin are 42 delegates. The statewide winner will get 18 delegates and the rest will be awarded on a winner-take-all basis based on the outcome in each of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Romney Ahead

Before the voting in Louisiana, Romney had 563 of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination, followed by Santorum at 263, according to estimates from the Associated Press. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 135, while Representative Ron Paul of Texas has 50, the AP’s tally shows.

Santorum told reporters he plans to spend at least four additional days in Wisconsin between now and the election and that he would like a one-on-one debate with the former Massachusetts governor.

Romney, 65, and his allies are so far dominating broadcast television advertising in Wisconsin, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising.

Restore Our Future, a political action committee backing Romney, had spent an estimated $536,820 through March 22 to air ads 1,277 times on stations in the state, CMAG data shows. Santorum and a political action committee backing him had yet to run any ads on broadcast television.

To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net


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