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Top Corbett adviser to head Santorum Pa. campaign

Peter Jackson

Rick Santorum on Tuesday tapped Gov. Tom Corbett's top political adviser to direct Santorum's Pennsylvania campaign, but the governor said he remains neutral in the Republican presidential race.

The former two-term U.S. senator from Pennsylvania cited Brian Nutt's key role in Corbett's three successful statewide campaigns _ two for attorney general and his 2010 gubernatorial campaign _ as reasons he was picked to head Santorum's state campaign heading into Pennsylvania's April 24 primary.

"There are few in Pennsylvania politics with Brian's resume, acumen and skill. I am looking forward to working with him as we once again work to turn Pennsylvania from blue to red," Santorum said in a campaign statement.

Nutt, 40, served briefly as chief of staff of Corbett's transition team, but left the administration to become a managing partner in Harrisburg for BrabenderCox, the Pittsburgh-based political consulting firm run by John Brabender, Santorum's longtime media consultant.

Others are taking sides as the clamor of the presidential campaign began to reach Pennsylvania. On Tuesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney picked up endorsements from two more of the state's 12 GOP congressmen _ Reps. Charles Dent and Bill Shuster.

Rep. Jim Gerlach also has endorsed Romney, as has Allegheny County party chair Jim Roddey and Pennsylvania's GOP national committeeman, Bob Asher. Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta have said they are supporting Santorum.

Most state GOP leaders who have made endorsements in the 2012 presidential race have passed over Santorum, an outspoken conservative whose bid for a third term in 2006 ended in a landslide defeat by Democrat Bob Casey.

Corbett said Santorum doesn't need endorsements in Pennsylvania at the moment.

"He needs them in Alabama, Mississippi and Hawaii today, and he needs them in other primaries between now and the 24th," he said.

Corbett made it clear that he's not taking sides either _ at least not now _ when asked about the political implications of Nutt's new assignment.

"Don't read anything into that," Corbett said in response to a reporter's question at an unrelated news conference.

Still, Corbett noted that Santorum has a track record of exceeding expectations, winning two terms each in the House and Senate.

"Never underestimate Rick Santorum," he said.

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Associated Press reporter Marc Levy contributed to this report.

The Associated Press