Santorum’s home-state connection notwithstanding, the makeup of the Pennsylvania GOP gives Romney a chance to win the state. Exit polls from the 2008 Republican presidential primary aren’t available for Pennsylvania, but its demographics are similar to other Midwest states like Ohio and Michigan. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, scored narrow wins in both.
“Clearly Pennsylvania is similar to Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin,” said Jake Corman, a state senator and one of Santorum’s most prominent supporters in the state. “It’s the Rust Belt area, where there’s a lot of manufacturing.”
Yet Pennsylvania’s most populous region – Philadelphia and the suburbs tucked into its southeast corner – is chock full of the upscale, college-educated Republicans who have formed Romney’s base throughout the primary. It’s the region most critical to Romney’s efforts in the state, and it accounts for 35 percent of the Republican vote statewide, according to Brian Nutt, a longtime GOP strategist in the state and Santorum’s Pennsylvania director.
Because of the size of the Philadelphia media market – it includes Delaware and southern New Jersey – it’s hyper-expensive, a potential challenge for the cash-strapped Santorum operation.
“If Rick Santorum doesn’t commit substantial resources to the state, he’ll lose,” said Phil English, a former congressman from the state’s northwest region and a Romney supporter. “And he may lose anyway.”
Santorum’s favorite-son status in Pennsylvania could give him an advantage he didn’t have in either Michigan or Ohio. But on this front, the former statewide official might not reap the expected benefits.
There’s visible ambivalence about Santorum’s candidacy among both conservative activists and the state’s GOP establishment. Romney has the support of many prominent Pennsylvania Republicans, including several members of Congress, former Gov. Tom Ridge and Republican National Committee member Bob Asher. Sen. Pat Toomey, a favorite of many fiscal conservatives, hasn’t endorsed in the race, but praised Romney effusively on Friday.
“A couple of leaders in the party got involved with Mitt Romney a year-plus ago when they assumed he was going to be the nominee,” said Corman, who also serves as the state Senate appropriations chairman. “One thing about Republicans, they like to win.”
Despite Santorum’s role in the presidential primary as a conservative insurgent, many activists in Pennsylvania remain skeptical. Some have not forgiven him for his 2004 endorsement of Sen. Arlen Specter in his GOP primary battle with Toomey that year, considering it a betrayal of the conservative movement. Among conservatives at the weekend’s conference, Santorum’s support for Specter -- who later became a Democrat and helped President Obama enact his agenda – is often among the first things they mention.