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Republican Romney tells US south: I can beat Obama

14 march 2012, 11:16
0
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney. ©AFP
Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney. ©AFP
Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney argued ahead of Mississippi and Alabama primaries that he, and not his rivals, had the organizational and fundraising heft to beat President Barack Obama, AFP reports.

"I am delighted the people of Mississippi and Alabama have looked at the race and said, 'We need to get behind the guy who can beat President Obama,' and I can," Romney said on Fox television.

"The other guys are nice folks but they have not organized a campaign with a staff, the organization, the fundraising capacity, to actually beat Obama and I have," Romney stressed ahead of the deep South contests, likely buoyed by a new poll showing for the first time he could defeat the Democratic president.

A national poll by ABC News and The Washington Post on Monday for the first time gave the former Massachusetts governor the edge against Obama, hit by anger over rising gas prices.

If elections were held today, Romney would beat Obama 49 percent to 47 percent, the poll revealed, adding Obama's approval rating has plunged below 50 percent as he bids for a second term in the November vote.

Perhaps more worrying for the Obama campaign, the poll also showed rising national support for Romney's main rival Rick Santorum.

The survey suggests the president would only narrowly win against the former Pennsylvania senator, by 49 percent to 46 percent, underscoring the extent to which support for the the president has fallen.

Romney, who Monday marked his 65th birthday, is racking up the delegates towards the party's nomination. So far he has almost 40 percent of the 1,144 needed to win, with Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich trailing.

Amid calls to quit and allow the conservative vote to coalesce around one candidate, Gingrich is fighting to stay in the race to be the Republican party nominee to challenge Obama.

He has said Tuesday's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi are must-wins after pocketing just two of the 26 contests held so far.

It "looks like it's going to be a close election night in both Mississippi and Alabama," said pollsters Public Policy Polling said.

"It's not really clear who, if anyone has the momentum in these states," it said, pointing to "the split in the conservative vote" which could let Romney win.

According to PPP's polling, Gingrich held a slight lead in Mississippi with 33 percent over 31 percent for Romney, with Santorum on 27 percent. In Alabama, the race is even closer with 31 percent for Romney, 30 percent for Gingrich and 29 percent for Santorum.

Romney has now won 17 of the 26 state or territory votes, compared to seven wins for Santorum -- eight if you include a straw poll in Missouri -- and none for Texas congressman Ron Paul.

With 455 delegates, Romney has almost 40 percent of the 1,144 needed to secure the nomination. Santorum trails with 199 delegates and Gingrich has 117, according to authoritative aggregator RealClearPolitics.

This lead means Romney's competitors must win some 70-75 percent of the remaining delegates -- which are handed out proportionally by district in many states -- in order to snatch the nomination.

"Mathematically, this thing is about over, but emotionally it's not," senior Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

"If Romney does well, wins either Mississippi or Alabama and wins Illinois (on March 20), then I think it's virtually impossible for this thing to continue much beyond early May," Graham added.

In a CBS/New York Times Poll released Monday, Republican voters gave Santorum a four-point edge over Romney nationally with 34 percent to 30 percent, with Newt Gingrich getting 13 percent and Ron Paul 8 percent.

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Santorum told supporters: "We just have to continue to do well. We're going into Newt's backyard, and obviously Governor Romney's coming off a big Super Tuesday. We've got to come in here and do well, and I think from all the polls we're doing very well."

But 73 percent say they expect Romney will get the Republican nod, the CBS survey found.

Romney meanwhile has been awkwardly trying to spread some southern charm, starting his rallies with a southern drawl of "hello y'all."

And Santorum meanwhile got an endorsement from reality-TV stars, the Duggars Family, star of the television series "19 Kids and Counting."

Hawaii also holds caucuses on Tuesday, and Romney has sent his son, Matt, to the islands to stump for him, while Santorum's daughter, Elizabeth, was also in Hawaii -- where Obama spent much of his childhood.

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