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Gingrich is pinning hopes on Georgia

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum flew to Washington state ahead of its Republican presidential caucuses Saturday, Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

Gingrich represented Atlanta suburbs in the House of Representatives for 20 years, ending in 1999.

His business these days is trying to keep his presidential campaign alive.

"I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race," Gingrich candidly told the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

Gingrich is pinning his hopes for a third comeback in this primary cycle on a Southern strategy. His only victory came in South Carolina. His camp thinks that winning Georgia on Tuesday could slingshot him to Southern victories the next Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama and that those wins could serve as a springboard into contests in delegate-rich Texas and elsewhere.

Gingrich leads in Georgia by 9 percentage points, according to an average of recent state polls compiled by the website RealClearPolitics.

Fighting for his political life, Gingrich came out roaring in Cobb County, calling former Massachusetts Gov. Romney "Massachusetts moderate baloney" and former Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum "Pennsylvania big labor baloney."

Georgia will award 76 delegates, the most of any Super Tuesday state.

In neighboring Tennessee, which also votes Tuesday, for 58 delegates, Santorum leads polls by a 19.5-point average, according to RealClearPolitics.

On Thursday, Santorum rolled out of Tennessee and into Dalton, Ga., a town of 27,912 that bills itself as "The Carpet Capital of the World." He arrived 48 hours after Gingrich was there.

Santorum called it a two-man race and devoted most of his time to attacking Romney and President Barack Obama on healthcare. He also touted his social-conservative record in Congress.

"Unlike anybody else in this race, I've led the charge," he said.

Romney hasn't been in Tennessee or Georgia all week.

Analyst Merle Black said Romney "may not be red-meat enough" to do well there. Instead, Romney is focusing this week on Ohio, Washington state and North Dakota.