STEUBENVILLE - Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum plans to rally with local supporters at the Steubenville High School gymnasium while watching election returns from 10 states on Super Tuesday.
The Santorum campaign officially confirmed Saturday afternoon the former Pennsylvania senator will spend Tuesday evening at the school watching returns from across the country, including those from the pivotal battleground state of Ohio. Campaign spokesman Matt Beynon said Santorum will "hold an election night party" at 8 p.m. in the high school.
"Rick really feels at home in Steubenville. He told me Ohio is going to be the most important state in the Super Tuesday primaries. He felt at home when he campaigned here two weeks ago and wanted to return for this most important night," declared local Santorum organizer Mike Hernon.
"This will be a victory party because we are anticipating positive results from Ohio. The campaign has told me we can expect some special events and special guests during the Tuesday night rally.
The event will be free and open to the public," said Hernon.
"I believe this race will come down to the wire and I am hopeful Rick Santorum will prevail. His message has really resonated with the public, even though Rick has been outspent by the (Mitt) Romney campaign," Hernon added. "Ohioans see Rick Santorum as a leader who will get the national economy back on track. And he is a man who shares our family values."
"Rick has found a strong Catholic connection in Steubenville. We are a community who likes what he says about the economy and the area residents are responsive to his politics," added Hernon.
Steubenville City Schools Superintendent Mike McVey said the Santorum campaign will rent the school's gymnasium Tuesday evening.
"They have told us to expect between 600 and 800 people at the event. When they contacted us, we offered them the gymnasium or the auditorium and they said they preferred the gymnasium," said McVey.
Jefferson County Republican Party Chairman Brian Wilson said he will try to attend the rally, but said he is also committed to his new duties as a member of the Jefferson County Board of Elections.
"I will try to stop at the Santorum event but I am not sure how much free time I will have that evening," Wilson said. "We are still neutral and waiting to see who will be the eventual nominee."
Ironically, Santorum may win the popular vote in the Sixth Congressional District, but not collect any delegates from the district because his campaign failed to file the names of delegates for the Republican primary.
Hernon said Santorum's blue collar roots and his Catholic faith make him a strong presidential candidate in eastern Ohio.
"He comes from a family of coal miners, he has a home in the Pittsburgh area and he feels welcome in Steubenville. This is where he wants to be Tuesday night," said Hernon.
Approximately 500 people filled a banquet room at Froehlich's Classic Corner restaurant on Feb. 20 to listen as Santorum discussed the federal deficit and matters involving freedom of religion.
Santorum has been the only one of the four actively campaigning Republican contenders - with Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul being the others - to visit the Upper Ohio Valley during the campaign season.
No Republican has ever become president without carrying Ohio in the general election, while the last Democrat to win without carrying the Buckeye State was John F. Kennedy in 1960.
Staff Writer Casey Junkins contributed to this report.