Looking ahead to Ohio, Santorum seeks to repair his image with women

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum smiles at his primary night rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012. AP Photo/Paul Sancya

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

The morning after failing to top Mitt Romney in Michigan's primary, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum painted a positive picture of Tuesday's primary results while also working to repair possible damage to his campaign as he looks ahead in the Republican nominating contest.

Rick Santorum on Wednesday sought to maximize momentum from his narrow loss in Michigan to rival Mitt Romney as he looks ahead to next Tuesday's contest in Ohio, where voting demographics are similar to those of Michigan.

In a television interview, Santorum called the Michigan results "a huge, huge win for us," noting that he will gain a significant number of delegates from the Wolverine state for finishing in second place.

Ohio is just one of ten states that vote on March 6, when more delegates are awarded in one day than have been awarded in the entire campaign thus far.

The Michigan results show "the message we have here in the upper mid-west... is selling here in the heartland of America," Santorum said in an appearance on Fox News' "American Headquarters."

The former Pennsylvania senator also sought to repair his image among women voters, who were turned off by some of Santorum's more incendiary comments in the days leading up to the Tuesday's primary in Michigan and Arizona, where Romney won easily.

Santorum came under fire for talking about his opposition to contraception on the campaign trail and calling President Obama a "snob" for wanting students to obtain higher education. At his election night speech in Grand Rapids, Michigan Tuesday, Santorum attempted to placate concerns about his views of women and higher education.

Santorum spent nearly four minutes of his 20-minute speech talking about three women in his life: his mother, his wife and his daughter.

Attending college in the 1930s, his mother was a "very unusual person for her time," he said, adding that she "worked all of my childhood years."

The vocal advocate of home-schooling children who often praises his wife for staying at home with his seven children sought to portray the women in his life as strong, independent trail-blazers.

Karen, his wife, is "someone who is as strong as they get" and Elizabeth, his daughter, "goes out on her own and campaigns" for her father.

Santorum's spokesperson Hogan Gidley denied any political motivation for the rare focus on women.

"It's not contrived," Gidley said. "No more than there's a conscious effort to focus on jobs and the family...  and cutting taxes."

Asked about the apparent flip on his attitudes toward women by Fox News host Martha MacCallum, Santorum said it was his "ethos" and he blamed the media creating an anti-woman "caricature."

"That's what happens in the media," Santorum said. "They try to create a caricature of somebody."

Pressed on his opposition to the use of contraception, Santorum told MacCallum he has "answered the question 100 times."

"It's a legal product; it should be a legal product" the candidate said after he tied it to the importance of contraception to the economy.

"We can't have a strong economy without strong American families," Santorum said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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