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Gingrich looks to Super Tuesday lift

From Shawna Shepherd and Ashley Killough, CNN
updated 5:25 AM EST, Thu February 9, 2012
Newt Gingrich speaks to workers Wednesday at Jergens Industrial Supply in Cleveland, Ohio.
Newt Gingrich speaks to workers Wednesday at Jergens Industrial Supply in Cleveland, Ohio.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Newt Gingrich will go to his native Georgia to campaign for the March 6 primary
  • Georgia is one of 10 states holding Republican presidential votes on Super Tuesday
  • Gingrich is targeting Southern states to revitalize his campaign
  • Conservative rival Rick Santorum swept three contests Tuesday

(CNN) -- Coming off a drubbing by conservative rival Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich plans to head to his home turf as part of his strategy to revitalize his struggling presidential campaign with a strong showing in next month's Super Tuesday primaries.

The former House speaker will return to his native Georgia next week for a two-day campaign push, his campaign announced Wednesday.

Georgia is one of 10 states up for grabs on March 6, and Gingrich is targeting several of them with hopes of winning a significant chunk of the more than 400 delegates in play that day.

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Other states in the Gingrich focus include Ohio, where he campaigned Wednesday, as well as Tennessee and Oklahoma, along with Michigan and Arizona on February 28 and Texas on April 3.

Gingrich has said he plans to be almost even with frontrunner Mitt Romney in delegates after the Texas primary, setting up what he hopes will be a two-man contest going into the Republican convention in August.

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Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, challenged Gingrich's thinking by sweeping all three states contested Tuesday to establish himself as a viable conservative challenger in the race.

The Santorum sweep gave him four victories in the first eight states to hold nomination contests, compared to three for Romney and only one for Gingrich -- in South Carolina.

Romney promises to get more aggressive

Gingrich's strong victory in the Palmetto State showed his popularity in the South, giving him hope for similar results in neighboring Georgia and Tennessee on Super Tuesday, as well as conservative Oklahoma.

A new poll released Wednesday by the American Research Group showed Gingrich ahead in Oklahoma, with support from 34% of likely Republican primary voters compared to 31% for Romney. Santorum got 16% and Texas Rep. Ron Paul received 10%.

In a 12-minute campaign speech Wednesday in Cleveland, Gingrich made little mention of his rivals in the Republican race, instead focusing on the economy and the administration of President Barack Obama.

"Part of our purpose in running is economic, to get us back on the right track," Gingrich said. "Part of our purpose in running is culture, to protect the rights of Americans to worship freely without being dictated to by their government, and part our purpose in running is national security."

He added: "We live in a dangerous world."

Gingrich will also travel to California next week to hold fund-raising events throughout the state.

Santorum's strong showing Tuesday made him the focal point of the campaign heading into a relative lull until Super Tuesday, with only four primaries or caucuses before then. Romney's campaign, however, continued its attacks on Gingrich, signaling that it still considers Gingrich a primary foe.

What's next for Santorum

A Romney statement Wednesday attacked Gingrich for his lunar colony idea, hitting him as anything but a "small-government fiscal conservative."

"Combined with his record as the 'granddaddy of earmarks' and his past criticism of fiscal conservatives, it's not surprising that his campaign hasn't left the launch pad," said Amanda Henneberg, a Romney campaign spokesperson.

On Tuesday, Gingrich said his campaign was looking beyond the three contests later won by Santorum in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado to focus on states where he thought he could do well.

"Everybody has to figure out their own campaign strategy on a nationwide basis," Gingrich said. "I think the big story coming out tonight is that it's very hard for the elite media to portray Governor Romney as inevitable after tonight is over. You have seen a steady decline wherever he's dumping his negative ads."

CNN's Tom Cohen and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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