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Published: Tuesday, 4/24/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Romney goes west to east in Pa.

Rubio joins front-runner; state 1 of 5 holding primaries today

BY TIMOTHY McNULTY
BLOCK NEWS ALLIANCE

PITTSBURGH -- Interest and participation are expected to be low for today's Pennsylvania primary.

It could have been a finish line for Rick Santorum's presidential bid, but the former Pennsylvania senator ended his quest for the nomination early, on April 10.

Pennsylvania is still key to the general election prospects of Mitt Romney, who is expected to be the Republican nominee.

So after spending the morning at a Consol Energy research facility in South Park, near Pittsburgh, Mr. Romney zipped over to suburban Philadelphia for an event with U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who is widely considered one of the favorites for the GOP vice presidential nomination.

"We really haven't had a discussion yet of putting together a list or of evaluating various candidates," Mr. Romney told reporters before he and Mr. Rubio addressed hundreds gathered at a Delaware County shipping company.

In a 20-minute speech in South Park that reprised his standard stump remarks, Mr. Romney assailed the Obama Administration on the economy and depicted the President as an enemy of energy development.

Despite dropping out of the race, Mr. Santorum is still on the presidential preference ballot, along with Mr. Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, and Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

The vote amounts to little more than a beauty contest, because the Republican convention delegates are elected directly and are not bound to any candidate.

Voters will also choose nominees today in four other states: New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware.

The Pittsburgh region's most competitive race will focus on Congress.

Almost two-thirds of the new 12th Congressional District north and east of the city is currently represented by U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, (D., McCandless); his intra-party foe, U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, is well known in his Cambria County base.

"You'll be able to tell on election night if turnout is uniform across the district, relatively the same, that's good for me," Mr. Altmire said Monday. "Obviously, if turnout is higher in Johnstown than in other parts of the district, that's good for Mark."

Congressional redistricting forced the incumbents into a single district when the state lost one of its 19 congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. census.

Among many other races, today's primary includes a five-way race for the Republican nomination to face U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.

There also is a vigorous Democratic battle for state attorney general and two other congressional races of note.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Upper St. Clair) faces a conservative challenge from Evan Feinberg. A fellow incumbent, U.S. Rep. Tim Holden (D., Schuylkill County), is being challenged on his left by attorney Matt Cartwright in the eastern part of the state.

Only in the 12th District is a sitting congressman guaranteed to lose. The Critz campaign agreed with Mr. Altmire's handicapping of the race and added that if turnout is very low -- it is expected to be around 25 percent in Allegheny County -- it should help Mr. Altmire more.

That is because almost 20 organized labor groups are trying to boost turnout for Mr. Critz.

They broke with Mr. Altmire after he cast a 2010 vote against Mr. Obama's health-care reform package.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Timothy McNulty is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.

Contact Timothy McNulty at: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com<

or 412-263-1581.



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