Kansas Is Up Next With GOP Nominating Contest

fromKPR

Kansas is the first state with a Republican presidential contest after this week's mixed results in Super Tuesday races. Mitt Romney is coming off a big win in the important swing state of Ohio. But Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum are hoping they can pull off a victory in Saturday'ss caucuses to give their campaigns more momentum.

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Kansas holds its Republican presidential caucuses tomorrow. Rick Santorum has been the most active candidate in that state. He's trying to stop Mitt Romney's momentum again. Kansas Public Radio's Stephen Koranda has more.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick, Rick...

STEPHEN KORANDA, BYLINE: More than 200 people chant Rick as they stand in a printing shop in Lenexa, Kansas, waiting to hear Rick Santorum. When he takes the stage, he wastes little time before blasting President Barack Obama in front of a receptive crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RICK SANTORUM: He's going to tell you how much you're going to pay for health care.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No way.

KORANDA: Santorum urges the crowd to support him, and he points to his performances in nearby states.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

SANTORUM: The conservative heartland. We've been doing pretty well - you know, Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa. You know, we're surrounding you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We're there.

SANTORUM: Just make sure you keep that center of the country bright red, strong conservative, right here in Kansas.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

KORANDA: Social issues are important to Susie Wheeler, a stay-at-home mom from Olathe, as she believes they are for Rick Santorum.

SUSIE WHEELER: I think he says exactly what he thinks, and you can see that he doesn't use teleprompters, but that he's speaking from his heart.

JONATHAN FORD: A human is a human, whether born or not. That's my view, and I'd like to vote for someone who shares my view on that. And I know that's not the only issue out there, but that's a big one.

KORANDA: That's Jonathan Ford from Kansas City, Kansas. He coaches basketball and track at a Christian school in the area. Some political watchers believe conservative voters like Coach Ford are more likely to cast a ballot in tomorrow's caucus.

BOB BEATTY: You would think it would be the more conservative members of the party really wanting to get out and support a Gingrich or a Santorum.

KORANDA: Bob Beatty is a political science professor at Washburn University in Topeka. Kansas is a conservative state that's taken a step further to the right in recent years, which works against Mitt Romney's chances. Again, Professor Bob Beatty.

BEATTY: If they do go wit Mitt Romney, I think it would be more for electability than for any particular policy issue.

KORANDA: Mitt Romney doesn't have any scheduled stops in Kansas, and Newt Gingrich has cancelled his appearances before the caucus. Choosing not to come to the state might mean they've written off Kansas. Only Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are slated to visit before the vote. The caucus process is still new to many Kansans. The first caucus in two decades was held in 2008. Here's Clay Barker, Kansas Republican Party executive director.

CLAY BARKER: It's something a little different and new. I didn't personally vote in 2008 at the caucus, because I didn't know a lot about it back then.

KORANDA: Twenty-five of the state's 40 delegates are divided proportionally. The rest go to the candidate who wins in each congressional district and statewide. Looking ahead to the general election in November, it's difficult to imagine the eventual Republican nominee not winning in Kansas. The state has gone to only one Democratic candidate in 60 years: Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

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