For a presidential candidate, winning on their home turf is a big deal. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) admitted back in February that any candidate that lost his home state would be “very badly weakened.” Luckily for Gingrich, he and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney have both been successful in winning their respective home states.
The odds are not looking as good for the other major contender in the year’s presidential race. Rick Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania holds its primary is on April 24, and the former Keystone State senator has his work cut out for him if he wants to have any chance of winning the delegate-laden state next month.
The Pennsylvania GOP establishment, which has significant power within the state, has lined itself up behind former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in this cycle. Last week alone, Romney picked up the endorsements of former Governor Tom Ridge as well as Congressmen Bill Shuster and Charlie Dent. Romney also has the backing of Bob Asher, a candy magnate and former Montgomery County Republican Party Chairman who is still the party’s biggest donor, and Don Adams, the leader of one of the state’s most influential Tea Party organizations.
In contrast, Santorum’s only Pennsylvania endorsements are from two freshman congressmen, Lou Barletta and Tom Marino, and a handful of state legislators. He has yet to receive an endorsement from any politician who served alongside him in Congress.
The state’s top-ranking Republicans, Governor Tom Corbett and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, are unlikely to endorse before April 24th. Toomey, however, is rumored to be in the Romney camp, having released a statement praising the former Massachusetts Governor’s tax plan last month. Having been on the losing end of Santorum’s 2004 endorsement of former U.S. Senator Arlen Specter doesn’t help matters either.
The problem for Santorum lies in the fact that Pennsylvania’s delegates aren’t binding – which means that the establishment essentially controls how the state’s delegation votes in Tampa. While the state’s “uncommitted” delegates will also be chosen on April 24th, the candidates running are mostly party insiders and elders who will likely tow the party line and back Romney at the convention.
Santorum may currently hold a double-digit lead over Romney in the among likely primary voters, but unless he wins his home state’s beauty contest handily, his candidacy is all but over right where it began almost a year ago.