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Originally published Monday, March 19, 2012 at 8:45 PM

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Is brokered convention in cards for GOP? Santorum says yes

Rick Santorum insists he and the other GOP challengers are in a position to deny Mitt Romney the 1,144 delegates he needs to claim the party's nomination.

Today's contest

Illinois

Event: Open "loophole" primary

Polls close: 7 p.m. (5 p.m. PDT)

Stakes: 54 delegates (two to four per congressional district), elected directly. The popular vote for candidates means nothing. Each candidate for delegate must declare a preference for a specific candidate or state that he/she intends to run uncommitted. However, there is no law or rule officially binding delegates to a candidate.

Source: thegreenpapers.com

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Note to Republicans. A lengthy, negative run to the nomination and a brokered... MORE
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Rick Santorum again raised the specter of a brokered Republican convention Monday as he sought to appeal to conservative voters in Illinois to deliver another setback to Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions in the state's primary Tuesday.

The two set out for a full day of campaigning across Illinois after a weekend in which Romney prevailed in Puerto Rico, winning more than 80 percent of the vote and all of the commonwealth's 20 delegates.

A week-old poll showed Romney and Santorum tied in Illinois, but more recent polling suggests Romney may have opened up a lead. New York Times political guru Nate Silver on Monday predicted a double-digit win for Romney.

Still, Santorum insists he and the other GOP challengers are in a position to deny Romney the 1,144 delegates he needs to claim the party's nomination. On CBS' "Early Show," Santorum said Romney could not win.

"The convention will nominate a conservative," the former Pennsylvania senator said. "They will not nominate the establishment moderate candidate from Massachusetts. When we nominate moderates, when we nominate a Tweedledum vs. Tweedledee, we don't win elections."

Asked about the odds of a brokered convention, Santorum said, "Obviously, they are increasing."

A brokered convention occurs when no candidate has won enough delegates during the primary process to secure the nomination. Delegates are no longer legally bound to a particular candidate, and the ultimate choice is made on the convention floor through lobbying and revotes.

Meanwhile, on the campus of the University of Chicago, Romney assailed the economic policies of the Obama administration.

In a 19-minute address, delivered with the aid of teleprompters, Romney was shy on specifics. But he portrayed his economic proposals — to loosen federal regulations, rein in government spending, lower the debt and decrease corporate taxes to spur job growth in the private sector — as coming under the banner of economic freedom. He said the word "freedom" 29 times.

The symbolism of his speech was not lost on anyone in attendance. Romney spoke in a lecture hall of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies, where President Obama once served as an advisory board member, and across the grassy mall from the law-school campus where Obama lectured.

The speech drew the ire of the Obama campaign, which quickly faulted Romney for proposing tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy and for assuming that those cuts would spur enough growth in government revenues to help close deficits.

"The question is, who is going to benefit from these tax cuts?" Cecilia Rouse, a Princeton University economics professor and Obama adviser, said. "The analysis suggests it's not really the middle class."

Romney spoke with particular disdain for government bureaucrats. "Our freedom is never safe, because unelected, unaccountable regulators are always on the prowl," he said. "And under President Obama, they are multiplying like proverbial rabbits."

He argued that what he considers an onerous regulatory and tax system is stifling entrepreneurial dreams and innovation. "We once built the interstate highway system and the Hoover Dam," he said. "Today, we can't even build a pipeline. We once led the world in manufacturing, exports and infrastructure investment. Today, we lead the world in lawsuits."

Romney and his allies also continued to pound Santorum on the airwaves, describing him as an economic lightweight. And in a new video released Monday morning, the campaign aired 2008 footage of Santorum praising Romney.

"This is Rick Santorum. I think everybody knows nobody puts words into my mouth," Santorum says as Romney stands beside him. "The words out of my mouth were that if you want a conservative as the nominee of this party, you must vote for Mitt Romney."

The Republican contest has seesawed back and forth in recent days, as Santorum scored key Southern victories last week and Romney won over the weekend. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul largely conceded Puerto Rico and are not campaigning aggressively in Illinois, making Tuesday's fight largely a two-man affair.

As Santorum campaigned aggressively in Illinois, he already was looking to Saturday's primary in Louisiana in hopes of delivering another message to establishment Republicans that Romney cannot win among the party's core supporters.

In his CBS interview Monday morning, Santorum echoed Democratic attacks on Romney as a person who flip-flops on important issues and doesn't hold strongly to any particular belief structure.

"I have a core. I'm someone who has really strong convictions about the limited role of government," he said, adding that Romney is "someone who doesn't have a core. He's been on both sides of almost every single issue in the past 10 years."

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