Santorum Meets With Conservative Leaders on Campaign Changes

Photographer: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Rick Santorum in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, on April 4, 2012. Close

Rick Santorum in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, on April 4, 2012.

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Photographer: Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Rick Santorum in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, on April 4, 2012.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, trailing far behind Mitt Romney in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, met today with social conservative leaders to discuss overhauling his flagging bid.

After a recent string of primary losses, Santorum, 53, is weighing changes to reinvigorate his campaign as he works to prevent a defeat in his home state’s April 24 primary that could end his candidacy.

“Everybody recognizes we’ve got to do things differently,” said Richard Viguerie, a veteran Republican strategist who has been advising Santorum and said he attended two meetings with him today in the Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, area. “The most important thing is how do we get control of the narrative, or become part of the national political discussion. Right now, the campaign has lost control of the narrative out there.”

Romney, 65, has rarely mentioned Santorum in his public comments in recent days. Increasingly regarded as the party’s nominee-in-waiting, the former Massachusetts governor has turned his attention almost entirely toward President Barack Obama and the general election campaign.

Santorum, who emerged as Romney’s chief rival as he rallied support from Republicans whose focus is on such social issues as abortion and gay marriage, is taking a four-day break to celebrate the Easter holiday weekend, which begins tomorrow, and plans to resume events April 9, his campaign said.

Viguerie said the sessions today were not about Santorum quitting the race or finding a way to get former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich to do so to consolidate the anti-Romney vote.

‘Big, Bold Things’

“We’re in the locker room, it’s halftime, and we’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do when we come out,” Viguerie said in an interview, declining to provide specifics of the proposals discussed. “We don’t need just little adjustments at the edges here; we need to do some big, bold things.”

While Romney predicted today in Harrisburg, the state capital, that Santorum would win the Pennsylvania primary, he also said he would win the state in a November match-up against Obama, which would help give Republicans the White House.

Recent polls have shown a close race between Romney and Santorum in Pennsylvania. Santorum has been stressing at campaign appearances his need to win the state.

After Romney swept three primaries on April 3, he has 658 convention delegates, according to an Associated Press tally, more than half the 1,144 needed to capture the nomination. Santorum has 281 delegates, meaning that he would need to collect about three-quarters of those remaining to win the party’s nod while Romney would need just over 40 percent. Gingrich trails with 135 delegates, and U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas has 51.

To contact the reporter on this story: Julie Hirschfeld Davis in Hazleton, Pennsylvania at   or jdavis159@bloomberg.net.

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

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