Santorum Strategist: Romney Trying to Call the Game at Half Time; Tea Party Vote Shouldn’t Be Split

Mar 6, 2012 8:37pm
ap rick santorum mitt romney ll 120306 wblog Santorum Strategist: Romney Trying to Call the Game at Half Time; Tea Party Vote Shouldnt Be Split

(Image Credit: Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

ABC NEWS’ Shushannah Walshe and Russell Goldman report:

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio – Rick Santorum did not vote in the Virginia primary today, despite being home before flying to Ohio. “If there was a candidate he would vote for, he would have,” said senior strategist John Brabender. Only Romney and Ron Paul were on the ballot in the state; neither Santorum nor Newt Gingrich met the signature requirements. Romney won.

In Ohio, just before supporters began to file into the Steubenville High School gym for the candidate’s rally this evening, Brabender took questions from the press, including commenting on the campaign’s delegate problem in the state. Even if Santorum wins the Ohio district he speaks in tonight, he will not get any delegates. Steubenville is located in Jefferson County, one of three districts in which the campaign did not meet the ballot requirements.

Brabender said theirs is a “MacGyver campaign” and again framed the fight as a David vs. Goliath battle.

“You’ve got to think of us as the MacGyver campaign, more so three months ago than where we are now. I mean, we were a very small staff doing our best to do all these things when Mitt Romney could pay people to get on the ballots…. The more amazing thing to me [is], How do you have that scenario, where you have a candidate like Rick Santorum, where we didn’t have the money, didn’t have the infrastructure, didn’t have anything? Mitt Romney had the entire establishment, yet he’s having trouble beating us,” Brabender said.

“Here [in Ohio], where he probably outspent us probably four or six to one. Again, we know it’s a close race,” Brabender told reporters, adding Santorum has “a strong message” and “we are going right up against him every time.”

Romney, he added, “has not won a Southern state yet” and “has not proven that he can get conservative votes … [I]f somebody can’t do well in the South at all, then they shouldn’t be running against Obama.”

Brabender said he believes Romney will hold a press conference tomorrow “to explain how no one else can win because of the delegates.” (He did not say where he got that information.) “He’s trying to say it’s half time and I’m winning and let’s call the game now. And people aren’t buying that. First of all, I think that’s insulting to states that haven’t voted. I mean there’s only been about 20 states that have voted.” Santorum’s home state, Pennsylvania, hasn’t voted, he noted.

“Romney’s a little tougher because he has so many houses in so many states … but he has Massachusetts this week, and he had Michigan last week,” he said. The strategist said he believes “voters will relay” a message to Gingrich, whose home state of Georgia is voting today, that the tea party and conservative vote should not be split.

“There’s a lot of conservatives, a lot of tea party types that are just very concerned that Mitt Romney could be our nominee,” added Brabender. “Take a look at Michigan last week, we came within three points of beating Mitt Romney in his home state, but Newt Gingrich got seven points. We could have used those seven points.”

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