Romney Rolls On As Santorum Sticks It Out

There's a question whether Rick Santorum will prolong his presidential campaign to finish in Pennsylvania later this month. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is moving in for the kill, buying $1.8 million of airtime in the state. NPR's Mara Liasson reports on the state of the GOP nominating campaign.

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

This Easter and Passover weekend, the Republican presidential candidates are taking some hard earned time off. But do not be fooled. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are both doing a lot of hard thinking about their political futures.

NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Santorum has the more urgent task. Should he prolong his presidential campaign to finish in Pennsylvania later this month, or will he settle for second place much sooner and save himself and his party further wear and tear? There are lots of rumors that Santorum may leave the race soon. And he has yet to make a major ad buy in Pennsylvania.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, is moving in for the kill. He's purchased $1.8 million of airtime in Pennsylvania in advance of that state's April 24th primary.

A loss in his home state would be humiliating for the former Pennsylvania senator, and could jeopardize Santorum's future standing as a conservative leader of the GOP. Even if he were to win Pennsylvania, Santorum would still have fewer than half the delegates Romney has accumulated.

Romney, on the other hand, has a very different task. He needs to hone his general election message against President Obama. In back-to-back speeches before a newspapers editors group in Washington, the two men lobbed personal ideological attacks at each other; Romney claiming President Obama wants a government-centered society, and the president attacking Romney for backing a social Darwinist agenda.

At the same time that Romney is focusing on the president, he also has to repair damage he's suffered during the primary with two key voting blocs - women and Hispanics. Polls show the president, although vulnerable, beating Romney with both those groups by large margins.

On Friday, Romney and the Republican National Committee made a structural move that signals the general election campaign is underway, even as the primaries continue. They officially filed paperwork to form a joint fundraising committee, called Romney Victory, Inc.

Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.

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