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Santorum Pivots To Pennsylvania, Romney People Protest

How's that for some post-title alliteration?

Rick Santorum and his supporters, while campaigning in Pennsylvania, are now have to respond to an ever-growing chorus of Republicans urging him to get out of the primary race:
Rick Santorum doesn't care if other Republicans want him out of the party's presidential race. He's going nowhere yet, he said on Wednesday, despite losing primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Santorum began the day's campaigning at a diner in Carnegie, once part of his former congressional district, before traveling here for an appearance at the Blair County Courthouse, where state Sen. John Eichelberger of Duncansville presented him boxing gloves to symbolize the fight ahead.

"We don't like being told who to vote for and when it is time to close things down," Eichelberger said.

Santorum told reporters in Carnegie that he has endured eight months of listening to people tell him to quit.

"I've never been the establishment candidate, and that holds true 'til today," Santorum said.

His spokeswoman, Alice Stewart, said it's disheartening when Republicans ask the former Penn Hills resident to leave the race. "He just tunes it out," she said.

State and national Republicans are suggesting Santorum bow out gracefully and allow former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to turn his attention toward the November challenge against President Obama. Romney won 86 delegates on Tuesday, pushing his total to 658 of the 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination. Santorum has 281 delegates.

[snip]

Santorum is ignoring reality, said Chris Borick, a political scientist at Muhlenberg College.

"So why is it he stays in at this point? He is not in the same game as Romney, and he knows it," Borick said. "If you are not fighting for the nomination, there have to be other factors that he is drawing on to stay in the race. Some of them might be personal, like redemption for his loss in 2006. He was belittled for that race, so maybe he wants to come back as a presidential candidate."

Lara Brown, a political strategist at Villanova University, said Santorum just doesn't have it in him to make the decision to step aside.

"He is not that guy that walks away, even as he is losing, even with no path forward," she said.

At the courthouse here, sunshine and the Altoona High School jazz band drew workers outside. Among them were 10 women who watched Santorum greet people. They aren't supporters, they said; they came out to enjoy the weather.
Annnnnnd, to add insult to injury, Mitt Romney has caught up to Santorum in polling:
Mitt Romney's taken the lead in PPP's newest poll of Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Romney has 42% to 37% for Santorum with Ron Paul at 9% and Newt Gingrich at 6%. The numbers represent a dramatic turnaround from when PPP polled the state a month ago. Romney's gained 17 points, going from 25% to 42%. Meanwhile Santorum's dropped 6 points from 43% to 37%, for an overall swing of 23 points in the last four weeks.

Pennsylvania Republicans are expressing major doubts about Santorum's viability both in the primary and the general election. Only 36% of GOP voters think Santorum has a realistic chance at the nomination to 54% who believe he does not. And when it comes to matching up against Barack Obama in the fall only 24% of Republicans think Santorum would provide their best chance for a victory while 49% think that designation belongs to Romney.

Santorum's favorability numbers haven't really changed from a month ago. He was at 64/30 and now he's at 62/31. But Romney's seen quite a bit of improvement in his image, perhaps reflecting growing acceptance that he will be the nominee. His favorability has improved a net 16 points from +6 (46/40) to +22 (57/35).

Romney's made huge in roads with the groups that have tended to fuel Santorum's success. What was a 37 point lead for Santorum with Evangelicals is now only 10 points at 44-34. What was a 32 point advantage for him with Tea Party voters is now only 6 at 41-35. And in the greatest sign that conservatives are starting to really around Romney a little bit, what was a 51 point deficit for him with 'very conservative' voters is now only 11 points at 44-33.
My emphasis.

Grain of salt philosophy applies to polling results, but when you look at polling like this and combine it with establishment support and Romney's big win on Tuesday, it all adds up to very bad news for Rick Santorum.