The next critical battle in the Republican primary race is the April 3 primary in Wisconsin. Rick Santorum will be coming off a big win in Louisiana and has shown an ability to finish a strong second in Michigan and Ohio. But Mitt Romney won Illinois decisively, and a recent Rasmussen poll shows Romney ahead by a solid margin in Wisconsin. Can Santorum win there? At a breakfast with a small group of reporters in Washington Monday, Santorum sent out some decidedly mixed signals.
First, after Santorum spoke at some length about Romney's financial advantage, he was asked to name some states he expects to win. "I think we can do well in Wisconsin," Santorum said. "I don't think we can win in Wisconsin, but I think we can do very well in Wisconsin." Santorum went on to discuss Pennsylvania and several states that hold primaries in May, where he expects to do well.
A few minutes later, Santorum was asked about his statement that he didn't think he would win Wisconsin. "I didn't say that," Santorum said. "I think we can." When reporters said yes, he did say that, Santorum answered, "Okay, let me pull that back. I said I'm not sure that we can win Wisconsin, obviously being outspent, but let me pull that back. I do think we can win Wisconsin. I'm not saying we will win Wisconsin, but we're putting a lot of time and energy in Wisconsin….Yes, I think we can be competitive there, and we might be able to pull it off. It won't be easy, but I think we can pull it off."
As far as the states that hold contests in May are concerned -- Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Texas -- Santorum made a far more confident prediction. "If you look at the May calendar, that's a very nice calendar for us," Santorum said. "I think we can go out there and -- I don't know about run the table and win everything in May, but I think we can come close to winning everything in May."