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Rick Santorum poses with people at Harvest Graphics, a small business, during a campaign stop Wedneday in Lenexa, Kansas. (Getty Images)

Next For GOP: A Brief Stop In Kansas And A Southern Swing

by NPR Staff
Mar 9, 2012

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Up next in the Republican presidential race is Kansas, which holds its caucuses Saturday.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas — the 1996 GOP presidential nominee — is urging the state's Republican electorate to back Mitt Romney.

Dole, who had endorsed Romney months ago, called the former Massachusetts governor "a main street conservative" in a statement Thursday, released by the Romney campaign.

But as Kansas Public Radio's Stephen Koranda reported on Morning Edition Friday, some political observers believe that the state has moved right in recent years — and that shift probably won't help Romney.

"If [voters] do go with Mitt Romney, I think it'd be more for electability than for any particular policy issue," Bob Beatty, a professor of political science at Washburn University in Topeka, told Koranda.

As Koranda reports, Romney doesn't have any scheduled stops in Kansas and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has cancelled his appearances there before the caucus to focus on the Southern states that hold contests next week. Only Texas Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum are slated to visit before the vote.

At a stop in Lenexa, Kansas on Thursday, Santorum pointed to his performances in nearby states: "The conservative heartland. We've been doing pretty well. Oklahoma, Missouri, Iowa. You know, we're surrounding ya. Just make sure you keep that center of the country, bright red, strong conservative, right here in Kansas."

While Kansas has 40 delegates to give, the candidates on Thursday seemed to be looking ahead to next Tuesday, when Alabama (50 delegates) and Mississippi (40 delegates) hold primaries. Romney and Gingrich had events in Mississippi, while Santorum was in Alabama.

On Friday, Santorum and Texas Rep. Ron Paul have events scheduled in Kansas; Romney is scheduled to campaign in Alabama.

In addition to Kansas on Saturday, Republicans are caucusing in the U.S. territories of Guam, the Northern Marianas and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which will award 9 delegates each. The Romney campaign dispatched one of the candidate's sons, Matt Romney, to the Pacific islands of Guam and the Northern Marianas to campaign for his father on Friday and Saturday.

Also Saturday, Wyoming's five-day long caucus concludes — although it's just part of that state's complicated process to award its 29 total delegates. Romney won a non-binding straw poll in the state on Feb. 29.

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