Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to back Rick Santorum

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was ready to switch his endorsement from Mitt Romney to Rick Santorum on Friday.

The former U.S. senator was expected to make the announcement at a news conference at the statehouse in Columbus, Republicans with direct knowledge of the pending endorsement told The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity.

DeWine had endorsed Romney in the Republican presidential race after his initial choice, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, withdrew.

The defection comes as a sting to Romney, though he still has some major names in Ohio Republican politics behind him heading into the March 6 primary. They include Sen. Rob Portman, Reps. Mike Turner and Jim Renacci, and the former senator and governor, George Voinovich.

DeWine successfully pushed for Ohio to join 25 other states in a lawsuit to block the new federal health care overhaul. The lawsuit claims the law violates people's rights by forcing them to buy health insurance.

He served four terms in the House and two terms in the Senate before losing his re-election bid to Sherrod Brown in 2006. He was chairman of Sen. John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign in Ohio and won a close election for state attorney general in 2010.

Republican Gov. John Kasich doesn't intend to endorse any of the candidates. Kasich initially favored former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour for the presidency. After Barbour decided not to pursue the nomination, Kasich was among those who urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to enter the race. He didn't.

No Republican nominee has reached the White House without winning Ohio.
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Associated Press writers Philip Elliott in Washington and Steve Peoples in Mason, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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