Rick Santorum says he must win his home state of Pennsylvania to continue his presidential campaign, but his fate in the state may turn on whether his support in rural and lower-income areas can overcome Mitt Romney’s edge in more wealthy and highly populated areas.

The tension could make Pennsylvania’s April 24 primary one of the most important contests, and perhaps the final showdown, of the 2012 Republican race. Polls suggest Santorum maintains a lead, but it has shrunk to single digits, and Romney has shown he can close gaps with a barrage of TV advertising and organizational might.

As a result, the two campaigns face quite different challenges. The Santorum campaign must maximize turnout among voters still loyal to their former US senator, particularly in his home base in the western part of the state around Pittsburgh.

Romney’s campaign, meanwhile, must decide whether to invest heavily in advertising, particularly in the expensive media market around Philadelphia, or whether to take a more low-key approach on his opponent’s home turf.

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