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Romney advertising blitz will run in Pennsylvania next week

Republican Mitt Romney will air presidential campaign ads in most of Pennsylvania starting on Monday, when candidates return from their Easter break, a source close to the campaign said on Friday.

The $2.9 million advertising campaign will run in the Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Erie, Altoona and Philadelphia media markets until the April 24 primary election.

Within a week, the ads will run in the Pittsburgh market. The Romney super PAC Restore Our Future is airing commercials on cable channels statewide.

The campaign's ad buy reinforces the former Massachusetts governor's determination to win the home state of ex-Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Santorum grew up in Butler County and owns a Penn Hills home, Gingrich spent childhood years in the Harrisburg area and Paul is a Green Tree native.

Romney campaigned in suburban Philadelphia this week, opened his Harrisburg office and then visited a natural gas production company in Wyoming County before breaking for the weekend. He acknowledged that he expects Santorum to win the primary but thinks Pennsylvania voters will elect him president this fall.

"Look, we all want to win our home states," Romney told the Tribune-Review. "I won Massachusetts, Gingrich won Georgia and I expect that Mr. Santorum will win Pennsylvania."

In person, Romney no longer mentions his Republican rivals, but the ads are said to focus on Santorum, who lost his Senate seat to Bob Casey Jr. in 2006. Polling shows a tight race between Romney and Santorum three weeks before the primary.

Santorum's senior strategist, John Brabender of Pittsburgh, said his ads would begin soon, though not on Monday.

"We put a higher preference on meeting with the voters than just running negative ads," Brabender said.

He said Santorum's family would help woo voters in the state's 67 counties, including a tour by Santorum's wife, Karen, and daughter Elizabeth, 22.

"Rick has the proven ability to win voters by meeting with them in person," Brabender said.

Trailing in delegates and momentum, Santorum met with social conservative leaders on Thursday in Virginia to discuss ways to reinvigorate his campaign.

Romney won three state primaries on Tuesday and has 658 delegates, more than half of the 1,144 needed to become the GOP nominee. Santorum has 281 delegates; Gingrich has 135; and Paul, 51.

Gingrich Group LLC, a health care advocacy group he founded, sought bankruptcy protection from creditors on Thursday without giving a reason. Last week, the Gingrich campaign released most staff members and said it would employ a social media strategy.

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