Romney Chips Way At Gingrich's Support In Georgia

One day after losing three contests to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney traveled to Atlanta for a campaign event. Georgia holds its primary on March 6, which is Super Tuesday. And the state would seem to have built-in advantages for another of Romney's rivals. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is from Georgia.

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It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

So you're a presidential frontrunner, still your party's presumed nominee, and yet of eight states to vote so far, you've lost five. That's the position Mitt Romney finds himself in this week, as he prepares for the next round of voting.

INSKEEP: To be clear, Romney is not yet in mortal danger. He still has the most money and the biggest organization among the candidates. And he did win Florida, which is the only really big prize so far in terms of awarding convention delegates needed for the Republican nomination.

MONTAGNE: But he faces a lengthening contest against Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, who won three state contests on Tuesday.

NPR's Kathy Lohr followed Romney to Georgia, the home state of one of his rivals.

KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: It was a bold move: Romney heading into Gingrich country to get some renewed campaign energy. Before a packed crowd at a local tile and flooring company, Romney talked about creating jobs and reducing government spending. And he also took aim at his GOP opponents.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MITT ROMNEY: Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum...

(SOUNDBITE OF BOOING)

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: ...they spent a lot of time in Washington.

LOHR: Romney said Santorum voted to raise the debt ceiling five times, and he said he would be different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: I will not just slow the rate of government spending. I - I will cut it. I'll get rid of it, and I will get rid of programs and spending and get America on track for a balanced budget.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

LOHR: Despite Romney's failure to win in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri this week, there was no lack of enthusiasm for him here. Billy Hill is an antique dealer who says the losses are just a blip.

BILLY HILL: If you look at the numbers, the low turnouts, there was weather factors involved. And in the Missouri case, that was a straw poll. A lot of people didn't bother to mess with that. When that comes around, I think everybody's going to see that Romney, he'll be our next president.

LOHR: Hill made a homemade yellow sign, and he was thrilled that it caught Romney's eye.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

ROMNEY: Some of these signs are pretty good. That one says: No More Obamanomics. And that's exactly what we're seeing right now. They're exactly right. They're exactly right.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

LOHR: Romney's message of changing Washington appealed to Stewart Wright, who runs a home renovation business in Atlanta. He says the former governor is doing just fine at this point in the GOP race.

STEWART WRIGHT: He did really well in Florida. He did really well in Nevada. You can't win every state. You pick your battles. I think Santorum being involved, winning as well as he did actually takes a lot of the thunder away from Newt Gingrich.

LOHR: There's no doubt Gingrich needs to do well in his home state of Georgia next month on Super Tuesday. The former speaker didn't mention his losses or his challengers yesterday while campaigning in Ohio. But he did mention Chrysler's "Halftime in America" Super Bowl ad, the one featuring Clint Eastwood.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

NEWT GINGRICH: I mean, I like the tone of that ad. I like the idea that the world's counted us down before. We're just regrouping.

LOHR: The former speaker himself may be regrouping. He's planning several appearances in Georgia next week, well ahead of the Super Tuesday vote.

Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Atlanta.

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