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Obama's The Topic, Louisiana Is GOP's Next Goal


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. It's the Republican presidential primary in Louisiana today. Mitt Romney leads the national polling and is way ahead in the delegate race, but Rick Santorum is out in front in Louisiana, according to the polls. Romney and Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all campaigned there yesterday. Mr. Romney kept his focus squarely on President Obama. Rick Santorum tried to keep his focus on Romney, but spent much of the day on the defensive. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has our report from Shreveport.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Normally, a campaign tries to have a message of the day - one topic for the candidate to hit hard. But yesterday, Romney had two. In the morning, it was health care. At an event in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie, the candidate spoke of the failures of the Obama administration.

MITT ROMNEY: At the centerpiece of this failure is this piece of legislation back here, Obamacare.

GONYEA: Romney pointed a big sign behind him that read Repeal and Replace Obamacare. Yesterday was the second anniversary of what is officially called the Affordable Care Act.

ROMNEY: You note that the White House is not celebrating Obamacare today. They don't have any big ceremony going on. The president's not giving speeches on Obamacare, and that's for a reason. Most Americans want to get rid of it, and we're among those Americans. I want to get rid of it too.


GONYEA: Though polling on the issue is hardly so cut and dry or so negative. Some polls do show public disapproval, but another is more people like it than don't. In the afternoon, Romney switched to topic number two, energy. He was in Shreveport. A towering natural gas drilling rig provided a backdrop as he assailed White House energy policies as too timid, too beholden, too environmentalist, too unwilling to tap into domestic energy supplies.

ROMNEY: As it relates to energy, he's held off almost every source of fossil fuel we can develop in this country. He's made it harder to get fossil fuels, whether gas or coal or oil.

GONYEA: And after a misstep by a top aide earlier in the week with a remark likening Romney's message to an Etch A Sketch, yesterday, Romney was back in button-down mode. In short, he was a front-runner. It was a different story for Rick Santorum when it came to message control. He started his day at a shooting range in Northeast Louisiana. He stood, pistol in hand, aiming at a paper target. That's when a women in the crowd said that he should pretend that it's President Obama.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Pretend it's Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF SHOOTING) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.