Romney, Santorum take fight to Wisconsin

(CBS News) MILWAUKEE - Tuesday shapes up as a big one in the Republican presidential race, with Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia holding their primaries.

The key prize is Wisconsin, where Mitt Romney is trying to put Rick Santorum behind him for good. But Santorum isn't cooperating. He says he's staying in the race, no matter what happens in Wisconsin.

In Green Bay on Monday, Romney blamed President Obama for economic hardships faced by women - including the poor.

"He's responsible," Romney charged, "for the fact that 30 percent of single moms are living in poverty with their families. Thirty percent!"

Romney's focus on women follows the release of a new USA Today/Gallup poll in a dozen battleground states that shows the president surging to a nine-point lead, 51 to 42 percent. A month earlier, Romney led in those states by two points.

What's behind the Obama surge? Women under 50. In February, 49 percent of them supported the president; in March - 61 percent. During that time, Romney's support among women under 50 plummeted from 44 to 30 percent.

Complete coverage: Election 2012

But before he gets to Mr. Obama, Romney still has to get past Santorum.

"(I'm) feeling like we might pull off an upset here ... in Wisconsin," Santorum told a crowd Monday. "What do you think?"

Rejecting GOP calls to get out of the race, Santorum says a long, drawn-out process would be good for the party.

"I think it would be an energizing thing for our party ... (for) a candidate to emerge who isn't the blessed candidate of the Republican establishment," Santorum said.

And Santorum's latest campaign ad shows he's also refusing to heed calls from Republicans to stop his attacks on Romney. Instead, he's ratcheting up his rhetoric, comparing Romney with Mr. Obama.

The ad has a woman asking, "What if I told you he dramatically raised taxes and stuck taxpayers with a $1 billion shortfall? One more thing: What if I told you the man I'm talking about isn't him (Mr. Obama)? It's him (photo flips to show Romney."

The New York Times on Tuesday called the Santorum ad "the political equivalent of the nuclear option." And, with Santorum hitting that hard, Romney simply can't ignore him.

To see Chip Reid's report, click on the video in the player above.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.

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