In Louisiana, Santorum And Gingrich Hope To 'Reset' GOP Race

Mar 23, 2012
Originally published on March 23, 2012 4:01 pm

On Saturday Louisiana holds its Republican presidential primary, and Friday all four remaining candidates will be campaigning in the state. Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, both of whom have won other Southern primaries, have been in and out of Louisiana all week, hoping to keep their slim chances at the GOP nomination alive with another win there.

Neither a balky sound system nor a gale that delayed Santorum's motorcade dampened the enthusiasm of members of the Mandeville Tea Party earlier this week.

Santorum stood before them with what at first looked like a black book by his side with red edges. A Bible perhaps? Turned out it was the bottom of an Etch A Sketch — a prop to illustrate the now famous gaffe of an aide to Mitt Romney, which Santorum brandished to poke fun at Romney and tout his own steadfastness.

"You have an opportunity here in Louisiana to make a very clear statement. You're not looking for someone who's the Etch A Sketch candidate," Santorum said. "You're looking for someone who writes what they believe in in stone and stays true to what they say."

Santorum is the favorite to win Louisiana based on recent polling. But Republicans in the state are a divergent lot, notes James Garand, a political science professor at Louisiana State University.

"You have part of the states that are just like the regular deep South. The northern part of the state is Bible Belt — very conservative — and Republicans are very similar to Republicans in Alabama and Mississippi," Garand says.

The southern part of the state, Garand says, has a large Catholic population, which he says is likely to be more receptive to Mitt Romney. Romney has done better among Catholics than has Santorum, despite Santorum's being a Catholic.

Still, Garand says, "I think overall if you look at the entire state, Republicans are more probably going to be more comfortable with a Rick Santorum-type candidacy."

Even with a win in Louisiana, it's hard to see how Santorum will gain much on Romney's delegate lead, since both are likely to receive delegates.

Harder still to figure are the chances of Newt Gingrich. The former speaker has been campaigning sporadically, but he apparently believes he has a shot in Louisiana too. Gingrich spoke at a Baton Rouge Tea party rally at LSU Thursday night.

"With your help on Saturday I believe that once again, for the ninth or 10th time in this cycle, we'll reset the race. And I think we have a huge opportunity to reset the race, but we need your help right here in Louisiana on Saturday," Gingrich told the crowd.

LSU student Paul Garrison says he plans to support Gingrich in Saturday's primary but is realistic about his chances. "It's not over, but it is unfortunately looking that way, but I'm going to try my hardest and vote and get all my friends to support Gingrich until, you know, the end. And if Romney wins it, I guess I'll shift towards him but in the meantime I'll be for Newt," says Garrison.

Gingrich and Santorum both have busy schedules in Louisiana Friday, and they'll be joined in the state by Romney, and even Ron Paul, who has been all but absent from the campaign trail but apparently believes he can pick up a few delegates here as well.

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