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Time to Close? GOP Horse Race is Over

I echo Jonathan’s sentiments this morning when he wrote, “for the first time in this long and tortuous race, the end is clearly in sight.” After almost a full year of following an exhausting and dramatic primary race, it’s about time to switch over to the general election.

Of course nobody is encouraging that narrative more than the Romney campaign, which sent out a fundraising email immediately after its victory last night headlined “Time to Close”:

Tonight, we have taken one more step toward restoring the promise of America. And tomorrow we wake up and start again.

This November, we face a defining decision. Our economic freedom will be on the ballot, and I intend to offer the American people a clear choice.

Tonight’s win means we are that much closer to securing the nomination, uniting our party, and taking on President Obama. We are almost there. Help us close strong in the remaining contests by donating $10 today.

At this point, it seems to be a matter of when, not if, Romney secures the nomination. Of course, the major media outlets still are still covering this as if it’s still a horse race.

Washington Post:

Despite the solid victory for Romney, who has eeked out more modest wins elsewhere in the Midwest, the contest is unlikely to dramatically shake up the basic geometry of the race. Though Illinois is a major prize for Romney, who will claim the majority of the state’s 54 delegates, the victory does not close the door on Rick Santorum, who will also win a portion of those delegates and has vowed to soldier on.

The Wall Street Journal:

Bolstered by his strong showing Tuesday in the Illinois primary, Mitt Romney has built a commanding lead, but the prize remains elusive. While he is winning in the delegate chase, he isn’t so far ahead that he is assured of entering the party convention this summer with the nomination sewn up.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is hyping the importance of the late-April Pennsylvania primary.

Santorum will fight on until at least late April, but, barring a major shakeup, his chances of winning the nomination have evaporated. He had a chance in Illinois, and a victory there could have showed a resurgence of momentum. But now it looks like he’ll follow the predicted path. He’ll win Louisiana, lose Wisconsin, and then slug it out until Pennsylvania. With each week, the calls for him to bow out gracefully will increase.

The question is, how long will the media shut their eyes to that reality? They have their own incentives for making it seem like the race is more competitive than it actually is. But at some point, it’s going to stretch credulity to keep covering the Santorum campaign as if he still has a serious chance of winning the nomination.