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2012 GOP candidates fan the nation looking for delegates on Super Tuesday

 

The four Republican presidential primary candidates are looking to Tuesday's 10-state races for a leg up, even as Mitt Romney starts to widen his lead in the delegate count after a decisive victory in Washington's caucuses Saturday night.

Far outpaced in money and organization, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul are looking at numerical strategies to gain some of the 419 delegates up for grabs on Super Tuesday. Voters are headed to primaries and caucuses in Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Vermont, Virginia and Tennessee.

Georgia, with 76 delegates, could be a big win for Gingrich, who represented the state in Congress for years. He's polling well ahead there.

"I think I'll win Georgia by a much, much bigger margin than Romney won Michigan," Gingrich said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"We're going to do pretty well, I think, in Tennessee and Oklahoma and Ohio and a number of other states," he said on CNN, one of four media appearances he scheduled after a last-place finish in Washington state.

Santorum, who came a close second to Romney in Michigan, and nearly split the 30 delegates from the state, 16-14, claims the states mentioned by Gingrich offer him the advantage going to the polls Tuesday. According to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, Santorum is ahead by double digits in Oklahoma and Tennessee, and has the slightest advantage over Romney in Ohio.

Santorum has sold his candidacy on his efforts to revitalize the manufacturing sector, a major industry in several of the states. 

A problem for Santorum, however, is his failure to get on the ballot in several counties in Ohio, sacrificing 18 delegates in the state. He acknowledged it was an unfortunate setback resulting from being very behind in the polls and with little money when it was time to set up his campaign.

"We've done amazingly well for a campaign that didn't have a lot of resources," he told "Fox News Sunday" before campaigning in Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Santorum has also fought accusations that if his campaign isn't prepared for a primary race, he's unprepared to challenge President Obama in the general election.

Santorum, who claims if Gingrich had been out of the race by Michigan he would've won the state, said it's up to his conservative rival whether to stay in the contest even if he's polling in the back of the pack. Gingrich, who has risen and fallen in the polls a few times, said he is not going anywhere.

"He stayed in," Gingrich said of Santorum. "He was running fourth in every single primary. Suddenly, he went -- very cleverly went to three states nobody else went to, and he became the media darling and bounced back," said Gingrich, who acknowledged that Romney is the front-runner.

Indeed, Romney and his independent supporters have spent millions on campaign advertising and infrastructure. According to records reviewed by The Associated Press, of the $10 million spent in seven Super Tuesday states so far, Romney and his super PAC Restore our Future have spent about half of that. Overall $75 million has been spent so far, with about $40 million coming from the Romney camp and its surrogates.

It's not just the money that Romney credits for his front-runner status. The former Massachusetts governor has argued that having a business model -- whether in a campaign or a country -- is the only way to succeed. Romney also notes other differences in his resume from his rivals.

"The voters of Washington have sent a signal that they do not want a Washington insider in the White House. They want a conservative businessman who understands the private sector and knows how to get the federal government out of the way so that the economy can once again grow vigorously," Romney said in a statement Saturday night before heading to Sunday campaign stops in Georgia and Tennessee.

Romney picked up a key endorsement Sunday -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., who said he was backing Romney because Romney has put forward a bold economic plan and is the only one who can beat Obama. Romney and Paul are the only candidates who qualified to be on the ballot in Old Dominion. 

But Gingrich said Romney is a long way from securing the nomination, even as Romney tries for a psychological victory in the Super Tuesday contest -- Ohio, with 66 delegates. 

While the other candidates look East, Paul was headed to Alaska. He has tried to take advantage of the caucus approach to voting -- and narrowly won second place in Washington.

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