Romney's Olympic record on display as Santorum gains momentum

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 14 2012 2:04 p.m. MST

Rick Santorum celebrates in Iowa. He called Romney "desperate" and vows to compete aggressively in Michigan.

Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY The roller-coaster race for the Republican presidential nomination is taking another unexpected twist.

New polls show Rick Santorum gaining momentum against Mitt Romney, the former Olympic chief, who is expected to visit Utah this week for a 10-year anniversary celebration.

Romney's visit here at the end of the week will be a brief break from the campaign trail, where Romney faces some key races in the coming weeks, including the primary states of Ohio and Michigan.

The Republican race rolls on, with Mitt Romney collecting a pair of wins over the weekend in the Maine caucuses and a key straw poll of Republican leaders.

This, as the front-runner draws distinctions from his rivals.

"I didn't spend my life in Washington," Romney said. "I've never had a job in Washington. I look forward to going there and fixing Washington. And then when I'm done, I'll come home."

The next showdown: primaries in two weeks in Arizona and Michigan.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum insists the fight for the GOP nomination is now between him and Romney.

"I feel very good that this is a two-person race right now, and that's how we are focused on it," Santorum said.

Two new polls show Santorum with momentum. In Michigan, the state Romney is from, he leads Romney by 15 percent.

A national poll shows a neck and neck race with Santorum with a 2-percent lead over Romney, who continues to struggle with gaining solid support among conservatives and tea party Republicans.

"I don't think that the majority of GOP and independent voters are convinced," Sarah Palin said. "And that is why you don't see Romney get over the hump."

Westminster College's Bob Seltzer, a longtime political observer, said all signs point to critical Super Tuesday primaries, what amount to must-win contests for Romney.

"Super Tuesday he's got to clean up on," he said. "He's got to be able to say, Enough is enough. We've gone through this long enough. I am the nominee.'"

Romney's record leading the 2002 Games will come into focus this week, with the former Olympic chief coming to Utah. Some have called his efforts "opportunistic"; others say he deserves credit.

"The fact that, and this is not a political statement, no matter how you plan to vote, I think, anyone would say that Mitt Romney deserves tremendous credit," said Bob Costas, NBC Sports Anchor. "He took a thing that was on its last legs, with no credibility and rebuilt it quickly and Salt Lake and Utah in general did a tremendous job in hosting the Games."

Romney, who was the head of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, will speak Saturday at a 10th anniversary ice show at Energy Solutions Arena. Tickets for the Stars on Ice show can be purchased here.

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