A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum holds a sign during a campaign stop at the Christ Redeemer Church, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2012, in Cumming, Ga. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

While Americans around the country celebrate George Washington’s birthday with the day off, the 2012 presidential candidates are hard at work in their campaigns for the White House. With primaries in both Michigan and Arizona a week away, the Republican candidates prepare for the return of the GOP debates, which will be held on Wednesday, February 22, in Arizona. And while there have already been 19 debates this election season, Wednesday’s debate could prove to be especially important for candidate Rick Santorum, whose lead in 6 consecutive National polls makes him a viable threat to the delegate leader Mitt Romney.

On the campaign trail…

Newt Gingrich (Republican): Struggling to stay relevant in the presidential election, former House Speaker Gingrich campaigned in Georgia with the help of former presidential candidate and fellow Georgian Herman Cain. Speaking at a rally in the district he formerly represented, he criticized opponents Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum for opting out of a CNN debate scheduled to take place on March 1, in Georgia.

Barack Obama (Democrat): After calling attention to the need for a better and more affordable higher education system in America during his State of the Union speech, Obama has been taking a tougher stance on higher education. His plan includes incentives for schools to ensure students find work, the reduction of costs for students, and the development of “scorecards” for comparing school statistics. While some are enthusiastic about his plans for higher education,  Education Secretary Arne Duncan argues that these changes should be made at the state level, not the federal.

Ron Paul (Republican): In his appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” last night, Texas Congressman Ron Paul affirmed that he will be staying in the race “well into the summer.” When asked about Santorum’s electability against Obama, he stated:

“His voting record is … from my viewpoint, an atrocious voting record — how liberal he’s been in all the things he’s voted for over the many years he was in the Senate and in the House.”

Buddy Roemer (Republican): On Thursday, former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer was passed by Stephen Colbert as the sixth most popular draft candidate for the Americans Elect bid. Ben Jacobs of the Daily Beast notes that Roemer is less concerned about winning the candidacy, however, and is more so trying to spread awareness of the disproportional role of money in politics.

Mitt Romney (Republican): Despite campaigning efforts in Michigan this weekend, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney trails in the most recent polls. As reported today on IVN by Damon Eris, this could be due to the decline in support from the Independent voter. He notes, “Over the course of the campaign, Romney’s image among independent voters has suffered substantially,” with a shift in public opinion that now favors Obama over Romney.

Rick Santorum (Republican): Speaking to a crowd in Ohio, Santorum was quoted Saturday as calling Obama’s faith, “some phony theology. Not a theology based on the Bible. A different theology.” Criticizing him for going over the line, the Obama Administration fired back and labeled Santorum’s attack as “wrong” and “destructive.”  Santorum later clarified that he was referring to Obama’s environmental beliefs placing Earth over men.  Despite these comments, Santorum is still polling first in the last 6 Michigan polls.

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