Republican race shifts to Obama`s home state
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Last Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012, 00:17
Chicago: Republican White House hopefuls set their sights on Sunday on President Barack Obama's home state of Illinois, as well as Missouri and the territory of Puerto Rico, key steps in their pitched battle to be the party's standard-bearer.

Polls showed former senator Rick Santorum within striking range of front runner Mitt Romney, who has a commanding lead in the all-important delegates count but has been weakened by his failure to clinch the nomination early in the contest.

The fierce GOP campaign was being waged as Obama flew home to Chicago yesterday for a fundraiser as his Democratic Party, sensing a tight election, is upping its effort to fill out its re-election campaign warchest.

Some Missouri counties were holding Republican caucuses today to elect convention delegates, and while Santorum won what was largely a beauty contest there last month, rival Romney tweeted a request for support, saying Missouri voters "have a chance to take a step toward changing the direction of our country."

The outcome of the caucuses will not be immediately clear because under local party rules, the delegates were not bound to support specific candidates until later in the process. In Illinois, which votes Tuesday, Santorum took direct aim at Obama in a speech to a suburban Chicago high school, where he drilled into the president's policies.

"You have a president of the United States who does not believe America was a great country until the government took money from you and redistributed it back to others," Santorum said.

"America is great because it was founded great." Santorum castigated Obama for believing it was the role of elites in government to "better organise society" and promoting a culture of dependence and entitlement rather than allowing people the freedom and opportunity to succeed or fail on their own terms.

Santorum, a devout Catholic and opponent of abortion and gay marriage, is seen as the most conservative Republican candidate vying to take on Obama in November, but his ability to win over centrist and independent voters is doubted.

A Santorum victory in Midwestern, industrialised Illinois could prove a far more significant upset than his recent wins in the Deep South states of Alabama and Mississippi, where evangelical voters carry more weight.

It would also give Santorum important momentum going into the primary in Louisiana on March 24 and contests in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington DC on April 3. (AFP)


First Published: Monday, March 19, 2012, 00:17

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