Pennsylvania’s Republican presidential primary last counted in 1980, when Ronald Reagan lost a nasty battle to George H.W. Bush. Four years earlier, Reagan was so desperate to win here against incumbent Gerald Ford that he said he would make Dick Schweiker, Pennsylvania’s very moderate U.S. senator, his running mate.

Next month, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum heads home hoping to win back the state that kicked him to the curb in 2006. State polls have shown him 14 points ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“The assumption should be, coming into Pennsylvania, he will be up in the polls, even though he was drummed out of here pretty hard-core in 2006,” said Villanova University political scientist Lara Brown. She added that Santorum is benefiting from national attention and the fact that most Pennsylvanians are not yet paying close attention to the race.

Incidentally, Pennsylvania has also been home to two of the other GOP contenders: former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Harrisburg area native; and Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who grew up in suburban Pittsburgh.

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