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Santorum tells cheering supporters: 'We've won'

09 march 2012, 11:17
0
Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. ©AFP
Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. ©AFP
Rick Santorum celebrated Super Tuesday wins in Oklahoma and Tennessee, as well as early gains in the crucial Republican primary in Ohio, telling cheering supporters he was unstoppable, AFP reports.

"Tonight it's clear: we've won races all over this country against the odds. When they thought, 'oh OK, he's finally finished,' we keep coming back," Santorum told hundreds in the packed gymnasium at Steubenville High School in blue collar eastern Ohio.

With two solid wins and a tense wait for results from Ohio, Santorum was literally pumped up -- telling the crowd at the start of his 20 minute speech that he'd got himself ready in the gym's weight room.

"I pumped a little iron to get myself psyched," he said.

The crowd booed loudly every time Santorum mentioned Republican frontrunner and party establishment favorite Mitt Romney. But boos changed to whoops of approval as Santorum retold his now familiar back story of an immigrant grandfather, his up-by-the-bootstraps life, and his huge, close family.

Claiming that President Barack Obama is destroying fundamental American values of limited government and self-reliance, the fired-up Santorum said he was running for the Republican nomination literally to save the country.

"We are not in this thing because I so badly want to be the most powerful man in this country, but because I want so badly to return the power to you," he said, to one of the loudest cheers in the night.

Although Romney also quickly notched up several wins out of the 10 Super Tuesday states, the Santorum campaign clearly feels its passion can overcome millionaire businessman Romney's big spending advantage.

Campaign strategist John Brabender was already talking up the future primaries such as Kansas and Mississippi. "Believe me, there is no resting in this campaign," he told reporters.

Santorum chose Steubenville for his election night party because the town fits his base: a small town of churches, both working and defunct steel mills, and close to his native Pennsylvania.

Santorum has been telling voters that he wants to fight for small town America, "the heart and soul" of the country, and Tuesday was his biggest chance to find out if his love is being requited.

The crowd greeting Santorum in the school gymnasium was almost entirely white, but colorful in other ways. It included four jovial nuns and an old man wearing a sweatshirt that read, "How's that hope and change working for you?" -- a derisive reference to Obama's feel good slogans during his victorious 2008 campaign.

Two knee-high boys came in with their parents, wearing baseball caps that said: "Coal equals jobs."

Danny Mosti, just retired as police chief in the nearby small town of Toronto, said he comes from a hardcore pro-Democratic family but hates Obama so much and is so angry about rising energy costs that he'll now vote for Santorum.

"I'll never vote Democrat again. I wised up. Anyone who goes to put gas in their car can't vote Democrat again," the burly 62-year-old said. Obama "is destroying the country."

Brabender dismissed Romney as "Obama lite" but he suggested that in order for Santorum to win the campaign, Newt Gingrich, currently scrapping for third place, would have to leave the race.

Santorum has lost several primaries to Romney only because Gingrich split the conservative Republican vote, Brabender said. "Conservatives and Tea Party folks are going to have to make a decision."

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