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Romney Sees Wisconsin Win to Knock Santorum Out of Race

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rick Santorum at Sabre Lanes bowling alley following a campaign rally on April 2, 2012 in Menasha, Wisconsin. Close

Rick Santorum at Sabre Lanes bowling alley following a campaign rally on April 2, 2012... Read More

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Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Rick Santorum at Sabre Lanes bowling alley following a campaign rally on April 2, 2012 in Menasha, Wisconsin.

On the eve of Wisconsin’s Republican presidential primary, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum campaigned in the state with two different missions: Romney worked to pivot to President Barack Obama and the November general election, while Santorum fought to keep his candidacy viable.

“His vision of a perfect world is a big-spending big government,” Romney said of Obama today at a lumber supply company in a suburb of Green Bay. “My vision of a more perfect world is a smaller government spending less and letting the people keep more.”

The former Massachusetts governor also characterized Obama as out of touch with the woes of average Americans.

“These are tough times for Americans and he has not done the job people expected him to do,” Romney said.

Lis Smith, a campaign spokeswoman for Obama, responded with an e-mail attacking Romney’s gubernatorial record.

“We’ve seen what happens when Mitt Romney is in charge and it’s greatly at odds with his message today of more jobs, less debt, and smaller government,” she said. “During his four years as governor, Massachusetts had the fourth-worst job creation rate of any state in the nation, debt increased by 16 percent, government jobs grew six times as fast as private sector jobs, and taxes increased by $750 million each year.”

Gender Gap

Obama holds a 51 percent to 42 percent lead over Romney in a dozen states expected to be the closest in the November general election, according to a USA Today/Gallup poll published today. The survey found Romney has lost support among women during the primaries, giving Obama an 18-percentage-point advantage among female voters combined in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Romney, 65, wants to focus more attention on Obama while seeking to wrap up his party’s nomination. His next test comes tomorrow in a trio of primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., as party leaders increasingly join Romney in trying to bring a swift conclusion to the nominating contest.

In his stop near Green Bay, Romney criticized the health- care legislation Obama championed that is now being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

‘Government-Centered Society’

“In a government-centered society like this president favors, government bureaucrats can tell you what kind of health insurance you ought to have and ultimately, I’m convinced, they’re going to tell you what kind of treatments you can have,” he said. “This is where they’re going: government directing your health-care life.”

Obama told reporters today his signature health overhaul is constitutional and he’s confident the court will uphold it.

“This is not an abstract argument,” as millions more have care now “because of this law,” he said during a White House news conference after meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Romney blamed Obama’s administration for causing stress even among those who have jobs.

“People who are employed are still concerned about the future,” he said. “Their policies have helped create anxiety in this country.”

Asked by a listener whether he views interracial marriages as a sin because he’s a Mormon, Romney said he doesn’t.

“No,” he said. “Next question.”

Until 1978, the Mormon Church had a policy against ordaining blacks for the priesthood.

Joined by Ryan

For the fourth consecutive day, Romney was accompanied by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman who endorsed him last week and is often mentioned in media reports as a possible running mate.

Santorum, 53, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, dismissed Romney’s organizational and financial advantages.

“The longer we’re in this, and I would argue even if it ends up in a convention, that’s a positive thing for the Republican Party,” he told reporters in Appleton.

A contested convention in Tampa, Florida, in August would be an “energizing thing” for Republicans, Santorum said. Whoever wins the nomination would get the party’s backing and have little difficulty raising money or expanding the campaign staff, he said.

Cheese-Head Hat

Still, with polls showing him behind in Wisconsin, Santorum’s campaign has taken on the air of a Midwestern family vacation. He made a stop at cheese store in Appleton, where he signed a cheese-head hat, headed behind the deli counter to cook a grilled cheese sandwich, and indulged in a lunch-time beer.

From there it was off to a bowling alley in nearby Menasha -- his seventh such stop in eight days -- to bowl several frames and reinforce his everyman image against Romney, a former private-equity executive.

While Santorum says he’ll stay in the race even if he loses all of tomorrow’s contests, his campaign shows signs of retreat. After days stumping across Wisconsin, he plans to appear on election night in his home state of Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 24. Among his challenges will be keeping his campaign alive through April.

“The map looks a lot better for us in May,” he said today, referring to primaries scheduled that month in southern and border states that include North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas and Texas.

April 24 Contests

A three-week voting lull follows tomorrow’s contests. Along with Pennsylvania, primaries on April 24 are being held in four states where Romney is favored -- Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York and Delaware.

With about half of the Republican nominating contests complete, Romney has exactly half -- 572 -- of the 1,144 delegates needed to capture the nomination at the party’s convention in August, according to an Associated Press tally. Santorum has 273 delegates and would need to win about three- quarters of those remaining to become the party’s nominee.

In a NBC News/Marist poll released March 30, Romney led Santorum in Wisconsin, 40 percent to 33 percent. The telephone survey of 740 likely Republican primary voters was conducted March 26-27 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in Howard, Wisconsin at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net Lisa Lerer in Appleton, Wisconsin at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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