Right now, Mitt Romney is on top of the list of Republican candidates for president because he has the highest tally of convention delegates on his side.
He has nearly half of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination.
His closest competitor, Rick Santorum, has racked up a few big primary wins but so far is trailing by nearly 300 delegates.
What that means is that Santorum needs to win upcoming primaries in states that have large numbers of delegates at stake.
It also means attention is shifting to the April 24 vote in Pennsylvania as one of those states and as Santorum’s home turf.
Expected visits to Lancaster County by Romney and Santorum on April 17 are proof that both candidates are interested.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator, will want to win his home state, said Dr. G. Terry Madonna, a nationally recognized political analyst affiliated with Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster.
Romney has two options, Madonna said.
The former Massachusetts governor could spend a lot of time and resources in this state to grab it away from Santorum or he could focus on New York (95 delegates), Connecticut (28), Rhode Island (19) and Delaware (17) – the other states that have primaries April 24, Madonna said.
Because Pennsylvania’s 72 delegates are pledged to candidates and elected independently of the popular vote in the primary, Romney could get 20 to 25 delegates here even if the total popular vote goes in Santorum’s favor, he said.
Romney could pick up 17 in Delaware because the primary winner there gets all the delegates in that state, Madonna said.
“It’s truly bizarre when you think about it,” he said. “I think, in the end, they will campaign here. Santorum has to. The only question is how many resources Romney throws at us.”
The interest centers on the Republicans – including the two other candidates, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul – because President Barack Obama is the only Democrat on the ballot.
Andrew F. Fick, chairman of the Berks Republican Committee, said Pennsylvania’s voters seldom have a chance to help decide who the nominee will be because the primary is so late in this state.
He’s hoping the situation this time will get Republicans more excited about the primary.
“The candidates are going to take an interest in Pennsylvania,” Fick said. “We’re happy to have the opportunity.
“We need to get behind the candidate in order to elect the candidate in November.”