Republican race shifts to Obama`s home state

In Illinois, which votes, Santorum took direct aim at Obama in a speech to a suburban Chicago high school, where he drilled into the president`s policies.

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

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

"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)


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