Romney reshapes message for Super Tuesday
Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney, trying to build on two victories this week, is working to connect more personally with voters before 10 states vote in a single day next Tuesday.
Romney's feisty top opponent, Rick Santorum, is sticking with his ultraconservative message but faces a desperate scramble for money to sustain his challenge for the nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in November.
The two are keeping a sharp eye on Super Tuesday, which offers 419 delegates to the nominating convention. So far Romney has 167 delegates to Santorum's 87. Gingrich has 32, and Paul has 19. The nomination requires at least 1 144.
Romney gave voters one of the most emotional moments of his campaign on Wednesday, turning away from the usual campaign topics to talk warmly about his wife and family.
“By far the most important thing in my life is my wife. All right? Ann and I fell in love young, we're still in love. We have a marriage that is still filled with love,” Romney told an Ohio audience after a sympathetic voter asked him to “show the American people you have a lot of heart.”
He talked of other personal experiences before moving to the American public at large – and making this pitch: “This is a family crisis going on in America, and I think I can help. I can't solve all the problems, but I can make a difference, and that's why I am in this race.”
But even as Romney launched his effort to address his vulnerabilities after this week's wins in Arizona and his home state of Michigan, the former Massachusetts governor found himself creating a fresh controversy – and angering conservatives – by equivocating on a Senate bill on insurance coverage of birth control.
It was an ill-timed move just as Romney sought to put to rest concerns within the Republican establishment about his inability to wrap up the nomination quickly and his struggles to relate to his audiences by making remarks that draw attention to his multimillionaire wealth.
Behind the scenes, Romney's aides – as well as an independent super political action committee supporting him – spent the day working to reshape his approach to next week's delegate bonanza on Tuesday.
Romney can't rely on momentum alone. The remaining candidates show no sign of dropping out.
Former House of Representatives speaker Newt Gingrich, who briefly made a run at Romney but has fallen behind, is making a huge bet on fashioning a comeback next week in Georgia, the state he represented in Congress for two decades. He has acknowledged that a loss in the southern state's Super Tuesday primary would severely cripple his campaign.
And Texas Republican Ron Paul keeps plugging away, determined to accumulate enough delegates to the August party convention and influence the Republican platform with his relentlessly libertarian, small-government message.
Aides acknowledge that the Super Tuesday fight – waged in almost all regions of the country, where industry experts estimate that buying a heavy week's worth of ads costs about $5 million – is tougher because of Romney's rough time in February. He won in Nevada but lost three states to Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator. – Sapa-AP