Matt Mills McKnight, Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Sam Selvage said Tuesday he doesn't understand why his fellow Republicans can't settle on Mitt Romney at their presidential candidate.
"I think Romney is our guy," Selvage said after casting his ballot for the former Massachusetts governor who is in the closest of races in this key Super Tuesday state today with Rick Santorum.
The outcome of the vote in the Buckeye State could determine whether the party rallies around Romney, long viewed as the front-runner, or continues to search for an alternative.
Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, is the latest serious challenger to emerge. After winning three states in early February, he initially surged ahead of Romney in the polls.
That gap has closed to a virtual tie in Ohio and has tightened in some of the other nine states voting today where Santorum had been leading in the polls, including Tennessee.
Romney's previous chief rival for the GOP nomination, former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, is ahead only in his home state of Georgia. The other Republican still in the running, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, is hoping to win his first state today.
Selvage, who voted at a Shrine center across the street from an upscale shopping mall, said Romney's business background is what the party needs in a candidate, not Santorum's strong stands on social issues.
"He has experience and knowledge about how to fix the economy," Selvage said, "and get us on the right path. I don’t think the other candidates have that. He's best for our country."
Selvage said he feels Santorum "is a little too far right as far as taking away the right of families to make decisions about how they're going to produce their family."
He said, however, as a financial aid officer at the Lutheran-owned Capital College just outside of Columbus, he respects Santorum's beliefs.
Selvage said Romney spoke movingly on campus recently about his family and his faith. He suggested Romney should show that side of himself more often to counter concerns about his personal wealth putting him out of touch with voters.
"If he can show he has a heart, he can overcome that," Selvage said, and get the party behind him.
But Carl Williams, a retired security officer, said he voted for Santorum and would have trouble voting for Romney in November if he becomes the party's nominee.
Romney "is just trying to buy his way into being the president," Williams said. "He's a fat cat. I don’t think he's for the middle class. He's made that pretty clear. That's the real reason I’m not voting for him."
Pam Kovach, a part-time technician, said she voted for Ron Paul to help put a stop to Romney's march to the nomination. She said she wouldn’t support Romney in the general election if he's the nominee.
"I'd vote Obama," she said. "I don’t need someone who's so out of touch with reality. They're both bad. (Obama is) the lesser of two evils."
Kovach said Romney's wealth, estimated at $250 million, means he can't understand how the economic crisis is affecting most Americans.
"I make $12,000 a year part time, and I work very hard for my money," she said.
Obama supporter Wendi Malick, a project manager, said the continued fighting among the Republican candidates is making it easier for the Democrats to keep the White House.
"They're hitting each very hard and I'm tired of it," Malick said. "I think it's like watching a circus and I think you see that in the results, why there's not one clear-cut candidate."
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