In Ohio, A Battle To Prove Electability

It may not bring the most delegates, but Ohio has clearly become the most coveted state on Super Tuesday. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney will all be campaigning there Saturday. NPR's Tamara Keith has this campaign update from Cleveland.

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Now, to Super Tuesday. Ohio may not offer the most delegates of the ten states who will vote on Super Tuesday, but it has become the most coveted state for all the candidates of the Republican nomination for president, a microcosm of the countrywide fight for supremacy. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney will all campaign there today. NPR's Tamara Keith has this campaign update from Cleveland.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Ohio residents are used to being the center of attention. It's a key swing state, and every four years, presidential candidates criss-cross the state courting votes. The latest polls here show Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney both have a shot at taking the primary, and both really, really want to win.

RICK SANTORUM: When Ohio shouts we want a conservative, this country will stand up and join you.

MITT ROMNEY: I need your vote. Get out there and vote as many times as they let you...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: No not - not that way.

KEITH: That was Santorum at an event in Eastlake and Mitt Romney in Cleveland, both last night. For Romney, it would cement his on again, off again, front-runner status. For Santorum, Ohio would prove he can win a big primary.

SANTORUM: We don't need another manager of Washington. We need someone who has a track record to go down - who's gone down to Washington and shaken things up. You know, I've gotten some grief in the media lately because well, I'm a little bit too passionate, I say things that sometimes offend people.

KEITH: If anything, his chief opponent Mitt Romney is sometimes criticized for the opposite, but Romney supporter Leann Smith says that's not fair.

LEANN SMITH: He's a very genuine person. He's not, you know, like everybody tries to make him to be this very corporate-like person, and he's a very personable and genuine person.

KEITH: Smith is underemployed. Her degree is in education, but she can't find a teaching job, so she's doing data entry. Romney's focus on jobs in the economy resonates with her.

ROMNEY: This is really a campaign about great jobs and rising incomes and lowering our deficit, keeping America strong, protecting America.

KEITH: And in the primary, it's also a campaign with four men trying to prove that they're the one who is uniquely equipped with just the right message to beat President Obama in the fall, which is why Ohio is so important. It's all about proving electability. Tamara Keith, NPR News, Cleveland.

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