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Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s rural road show is running out of gas. The candidate once considered the last remaining serious contender to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the GOP Presidential nomination is playing to nearly empty houses.
Campaigning in Wisconsin, where he hopes the rural redneck vote will pull help him upset frontrunner Romney, Santorum speaks to rooms with more empty chairs than potential voters. A rally Monday in Oshkosh drew less than 100. He did slightly better in Shawano with just over a hundred and doubled that to about 200 in Menasha.
“Santorum’s empty rhetoric is translating into empty rooms,” a long-time GOP consultant told Capitol Hill Blue Monday. “He’s running on fumes.”
Polls show Romney with substantial leads in Tuesday’s Wisconsin and Maryland primaries as he heads into a month that favors his campaign. Wins in both states will pad his lead for the nomination and increase his chances of locking up the nomination by June.
But Santorum clings to the hope that his small-town strategy will work.
In Oshkosh, he urged:
I’m asking small-town America, rural America, and rural Wisconsin to come out and speak loudly tomorrow. I need your help and support, but I need you to leave here. Call, pick up the phone, call 10 friends, we’ll get around and say hi to everyone, take pictures. Post them on Facebook. Send your tweets out. Send your emails out. Get folks to the polls. Take the day off tomorrow. It’s on me.
Will it work? GOP strategists have their doubts.
“It’s a long shot but a long shot is all Santorum has left,” says Republican operative Jan Black. “He has to scramble and try anything.”
“Man, that one hurt,” a Santorum aide told Capitol Hill Blue. “It sucked the hot air right out of our balloon.”
With the GOP establishment lining up behind Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich scaling back his campaign and Texas Congressman Ron Paul a non-factor, Santorum is the only one standing in the way of Romney’s oncoming train.
“The Romney train is coming,” grumbles one Santorum aide. “It looks like we had better jump on board or get the hell out of the way.”