WEST MONROE, La. — Republican presidential nominating contests often reveal a rural-urban split in the party, but a distinguishing feature this year is the emphasis Rick Santorum is placing on that divide.

To hear Santorum tell it, front-runner Mitt Romney's ability to win in big city suburbs is a sign of ideological weakness, not political strength.

Santorum says the fact that he does better in counties where Republicans do well is an indication of which candidate best reflects the party's values.

But some political analysts say his relative weakness outside of rural areas raises doubts about his ability to slow Romney's march to the nomination.

Santorum's aides shrug off those assessments. They say he can keep collecting delegates to the party's national convention using his current strategy.