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Romney, Santorum to visit Milwaukee

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MADISON (AP) — The Republican presidential primary fight is soon coming to Wisconsin.

Rick Santorum plans to be in Milwaukee on Saturday, March 24 and front-runner Mitt Romney is scheduled to come to the state the following weekend, but he could show up even sooner.

The activity comes in advance of the rapidly approaching April 3 primary election. When Wisconsin moved its primary from February to April, most expected the nominee to already have garnered enough support to make the election essentially meaningless.

But as Romney and Santorum continue to battle it out, Wisconsin sits as another important state with 42 delegates in play for the remaining candidates.

“If you had asked us two months ago if Wisconsin would bear the significance it has today, I would say no way,” said Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Ben Sparks.

Santorum, the former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, will be the first to come to Wisconsin under the current schedule. He plans to speak Saturday at an Americans for Prosperity forum in Milwaukee.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan are both also scheduled to attend the event.

Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, plans to be in Milwaukee on March 31, either for a fundraiser or some other campaign event, said former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, his state campaign co-chair. Details of the visit still were being worked out, Kanavas said.

It’s also possible Romney will come to Wisconsin sooner, he said.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas also remain in the race, but they have no known Wisconsin events planned.

Because of the volatility of the continuing campaign, candidates’ plans are being made on short notice and subject to change, Kanavas said. “This thing has been such a circus,” he said. “Literally go into a town, put in a big tent, vote, pull up the tent and go into the next town. Every delegate matters this year.”

Santorum’s state director Nick Lauren said his campaign operations were ramping up in Wisconsin, but he anticipated Romney and groups supporting him would spend much more money. Pro-Romney television commercials began airing in Wisconsin last week.

Before Wisconsin, there are primaries Tuesday in Illinois and Saturday in Louisiana. Wisconsin shares an April 3 primary with Maryland and Washington, D.C.

According to an Associated Press count, Romney has 521 delegates, compared to Santorum’s 253, Gingrich’s 136 and Paul’s 50. At this rate, Romney is on pace to capture the nomination in June unless Santorum or Gingrich is able to win decisively in the coming contests.

It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the nomination. Wisconsin could split its 42 delegates among two or more of the candidates. The statewide winner gets 18 delegates, with three delegates going to the winner in each of the state’s eight congressional districts.

President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, but Republicans swept to victory in 2010 winning the governor’s office and both houses of the Legislature, and defeating U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold.

A recent poll shows Obama still holds sway. The Marquette University Poll done in mid-February showed Obama leading Santorum 51 percent to 40 percent and Romney 53 percent to 38 percent. Obama was ahead of Paul 52 percent to 36 percent and leading Gingrich 56 percent to 33 percent.

Kanavas dismissed any polls, saying it’s too volatile of an election year to accurately gauge where voters stand. “Any poll that was taken more than three days ago, may as well
have been taken in 1997, that’s how much validity there should be to polling,” he said.

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