Rick Santorum’s supporters are still bravely pretending he has a viable chance to stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican presidential nomination. There’s little chance of that happening, but the one prerequisite for his campaign to continue past April is for the former senator to win a smashing victory in his home state of Pennsylvania. But a Philadelphia Daily News/Franklin & Marshall poll published today shows that Santorum will be lucky to squeak out even a narrow victory in the one large state he has any hope of winning in the upcoming weeks. The survey shows Santorum holding a narrow 30-28-percentage point lead over Romney with Ron Paul at 9 percent and Newt Gingrich fading into complete insignificance at 6 percent.
To say that such a result is a potential catastrophe for the tottering Santorum campaign is an understatement. Earlier this week, Santorum said he was looking ahead to winning primaries in May in some states where he might hope his strong backing from evangelicals would make the difference. But if Santorum is trounced in every other state that votes in April, a narrow win or even a loss in Pennsylvania would be a clear sign his run is coming to an end.
At one time or another, it’s something most conservatives have wanted to do. While campaigning in Wisconsin, Santorum did: He blew up on a New York Times‘ reporter, questioning his journalistic integrity, his willingness to report on instead of create the news. Many conservatives cheered Santorum’s bravery, his willingness to take on the media bias at the New York Times and elsewhere. Will this be enough to fire up the conservative base in time for Santorum to have a shot at beating Romney for the nomination? In a word: no. Nothing short of a miracle could make that happen at this point, looking at the delegate math.
During the debates Newt Gingrich gained serious traction taking on the liberal establishment of all stripes, leading to the only standing ovation during a debate that I can remember. Has Santorum decided to take a page from his opponent’s book, deciding to go on the offensive to remind conservatives why he’s their only logical pick?
Mitt Romney is racking up some key endorsements today, including one from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. But the biggest indicator that the conservative movement is starting to coalesce behind Romney is today’s endorsement from the head of the American Conservative Union, Al Cardenas.
Cardenas, the figurehead behind the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), gently tells the other candidates he thinks it’s time for them to step aside. From his Daily Caller op-ed:
As of today, it is clear neither Senator Santorum nor Speaker Gingrich nor Congressman Paul can amass the majority of delegates required to be the Republican nominee. Their only paths to victory feature a contested, anarchic floor fight just weeks before Americans vote on whether or not to give President Obama a second term.
With all due respect to my fellow conservative leaders determined to oppose Governor Romney, that is not a worthy endeavor. For the sake of our Republic, I’m not willing to wait until the Republican National Convention to sort this out. It’s time to unite behind a worthy presidential candidate, build our organization and raise the resources necessary to defeat the liberal electoral machine. …
Governor Romney is an honorable, worthy, competent, conservative candidate for our next commander-in-chief. I’m proud to support his campaign for president.
I’m calling on my fellow conservatives, for goals both lofty and pragmatic, to join me in supporting the only candidate that can ensure President Obama’s legacy is limited to just four years of fiscal irresponsibility and disregard for our Constitution, and not eight.
Byron York reports that Rick Santorum told a gathering of Washington reporters today while he knows the outlook for him isn’t bright in Wisconsin next week, he’s looking forward to winning in lots of states the following month. Given that the latest poll shows him losing badly in Wisconsin, his lowering of expectations there is smart. But the problem with his attempt to rationalize the defeats that are in store for him in the near future is that by the time May rolls around the landscape of the race may have been altered to his disadvantage.
The problem with being “Mr. May” is that even if Santorum can win some primaries that month — and even he concedes that running the table in a diverse group of states including some that Romney will probably win is unlikely — is that he really needed to be the man of the month in February and March when the nomination was still up for grabs. Santorum did win some states in those months, but he also lost some big ones, and the result is that waiting until deep into the spring to play catch up means he’s doomed himself to runner-up status.
Moments after the polls closed in Louisiana tonight, Rick Santorum was proclaimed the victor. Polls had shown the former senator with a big lead going into Saturday and it appears the state’s heavy concentration of evangelicals and Deep South conservatives has given him a big victory. But though Santorum spoke of Louisiana once again changing the dynamic of the GOP race, it’s too late for that. Though the first few months of the campaign were characterized by frequent momentum shifts, with almost half of the delegates to the Republican National Convention already chosen, the pattern of the contest is now already set in stone. Mitt Romney’s lead, which won’t be affected much by Santorum’s win tonight, is too big.
The chance for that next big momentum change Santorum was looking for has already come and gone. The opportunity for that game changing victory was there for the taking in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois where a win over Romney would have demonstrated that Santorum could take large and diverse states, not just the ones dominated by evangelicals. But having lost each one of those tests, Louisiana won’t make up for those defeats. That means tonight’s party may be one of the last moments for Santorum’s supporters to celebrate as he faces likely defeat in a string of states that will vote next.
On Thursday GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum said Republicans should give President Obama another term if Santorum isn’t the GOP nominee. “You win by giving people a choice,” according to Santorum. “You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who’s just going to be a little different than the person in there.” Santorum added: “If they’re going to be a little different, we might as well stay with what we have instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.”
Whatever concerns conservatives have about Governor Romney, the idea that Obama would be (from a Republican perspective) a superior president is insane, for reasons that don’t need to be recited here. Bear in mind that Santorum enthusiastically endorsed Romney in 2008 — and Romney is no less conservative now than he was then. On the other hand, I suppose a conservative who argues that Obama would be better than Romney might also argue that Arlen Specter would be superior to Pat Toomey.
The widespread consensus among pundits and political operators that Mitt Romney’s nomination is no longer in doubt has generated some predictable pushback from conservatives who are still trying to convince themselves that it is possible to stop him. Some seized on this analysis by the Wall Street Journal of the delegate math from earlier in the week as proof that the road ahead for the frontrunner was still steep since it made it clear that Romney had to keep winning at least 50 percent of the delegates in play to clinch before the Tampa convention. When you combine that with the dismay over the Etch A Sketch gaffe as well as the ongoing angst about the candidate’s bona fides still being expressed by respected commentators such as William Kristol, it is possible to imagine there is still room for skepticism about the inevitability of the outcome.
But the are two problems for those trying to concoct such a scenario. The first is that no matter how you play around with the delegate math, nothing short of a Romney collapse will prevent him from getting a majority of convention delegates by the end of June. The second is that even if you think Romney will still find a few more banana peels to slip on in the upcoming weeks, a deadlocked convention requires one of his competitors to catch fire during this period. Yet the only possible alternative is Rick Santorum, a candidate who has already proven repeatedly that he cannot compete in any state that isn’t dominated by evangelicals.
I concur with my colleagues. The GOP presidential race isn’t officially over, but the outcome is (absent an act of God) decided. As many of us thought at the outset of this contest, Mitt Romney will be the GOP nominee.
It took longer, and the struggle has been harder, than Romney and his supporters would have liked. But he’s going to win the nomination of a party whose base has been wary of him from the start and while packing some heavy bricks (in the form of RomneyCare) in his rucksack. That is an impressive achievement in its own right.
After months of speculation, former Florida governor Jeb Bush finally jumped on Mitt Romney’s bandwagon. The son and brother of the 41st and 43rd presidents issued a statement saying “now is the time for Republicans to unite behind Governor Romney and take our message of fiscal conservatism and job creation to all voters this fall.” The endorsement, coming on the day after Romney’s impressive win in Illinois all but made his nomination inevitable, isn’t likely to be of all that much help to the frontrunner in upcoming primaries. But it is a signal that the one family that could be said to embody the Republican establishment if there even is such a thing has formally certified Romney’s nomination.
The endorsement also is welcome since it comes on a day when the Romney campaign is dealing with a gaffe by one of his advisors that has the potential to alienate conservatives just at the moment when they may be coming to terms with the fact that they must make their peace with the inevitable nominee. This morning on CNN, Romney advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said that Romney could tack back to the center after the primaries because:
Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again.
I agree completely with Alana and Jonathan that the end game is at hand regarding the Republican nomination. Barring a major development, Romney is now unstoppable. He has a commanding lead in delegates and his two main opponents, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, are facing increasingly difficult situations and rapidly diminishing possibilities. Santorum has yet to win in a state not dominated by hard-line conservatives and evangelicals, states that are safely in the Republican column come November anyway. Gingrich finished in Illinois behind fringe candidate Ron Paul.
But while Rick Santorum is now very unlikely to win the nomination, it’s been a remarkable journey for him. Just consider, he was a two-term senator, having won in Republican years (1994 and 2000) and then was clobbered in the Democratic year of 2006, losing as an incumbent by 18 percentage points. That’s a pretty thin résumé to run on. He was seriously underfunded throughout most of the campaign, unable even to get on the ballot in some districts and in Virginia.
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.
After the walloping they took last night in Illinois, Rick Santorum’s supporters are hopeful that the next stop on the Republican primary calendar will cheer them up. Santorum is favored to win Saturday’s Louisiana Primary but that won’t change the fact that on Tuesday, he lost one of his last chances to win a state whose GOP is not dominated by evangelicals. The 47-35 percent beating he took in Illinois — which allowed Romney to win all but a handful of the state’s convention delegates — does more than merely reinforce the sense of Romney’s inevitability that is now acknowledged by all but the most diehard of his opponents’ supporters. The pattern of voting is such that there is now no longer any credible scenario that can be put forward in which Romney is denied a majority of the convention’s delegates by June.
Though the race will go on for at least another month, for the first time in this long and tortuous race, the end is clearly in sight. The April 24 Pennsylvania primary now looks to be an opportunity for Romney to close out his opponent by beating him in his home state. But even if Santorum can hold onto Pennsylvania, the May 8 trio of North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia may be his last stand especially since Romney is likely to win most of the states that vote in April. The delegate math makes it impossible for Santorum to pretend that he can actually win the nomination on his own. Not even the complete collapse of Newt Gingrich’s candidacy — the former speaker finished dead last in the field of four behind Ron Paul — has been enough to prevent the frontrunner from assuming a commanding lead that will not be overtaken.
The exit polls of Illinois Republican primary voters seem to illustrate some basic facts on the race. For all of the complaints about Mitt Romney’s inability to seal the deal with the GOP base he has still managed to cobble together a coalition of moderates and mainstream conservatives that enabled him to continue to pile up victories. With the networks already projecting a big win for Romney tonight, the frontrunner is not only building his big delegate lead, he is also showing his ability to win large pluralities having long since broken through the ceiling of 25 percent that once characterized his support. The Santorum camp may say that losing a large blue state like Illinois doesn’t mean anything in the long run and complain about being outspent but this was probably his last chance to challenge and beat Romney in a state that wasn’t dominated by evangelicals and extreme “very conservative” voters — the only groups the Pennsylvanian wins. If the exit polls are anything close to accurate, then he has lost any opportunity to dent Romney’s aura of inevitability.
The other interesting takeaway from the exit poll is the disastrous showing of Newt Gingrich. As was the case in Michigan and Ohio, Gingrich was a non-factor in Illinois. Indeed, he is so far off the pace, that it may no longer be possible to argue that he is splitting the conservative vote and thereby allowing Romney to win instead of Santorum. Santorum may be looking forward to winning in Louisiana this weekend, but there just aren’t enough big states where he is likely to win to seriously believe that he can be stopped. When you consider that Santorum was looking very competitive in Illinois just a week ago, it appears that the tide has turned against him.
Mitt Romney is leading by 14-points in the American Research Group poll today, backing up yesterday’s Public Policy Polling survey that found Romney up by 15 points.
Mitt Romney leads the Illinois Republican presidential primary with 44%. Romney is followed by Rick Santorum with 30%, Newt Gingrich with 13%, and Ron Paul with 8%.
Romney leads Santorum 45% to 35% among self-identified Republicans, followed by Gingrich with 12% and Paul with 4%. Among self-identified independents and Democrats, Romney leads with 42%, followed by Paul with 20%, Gingrich with 17%, and Santorum with 16%.
Also note the gap between Santorum and Romney when it comes to women voters:
Romney leads Santorum 46% to 29% among women, followed by Gingrich with 12% and Paul with 8%.
For weeks, pundits have been wondering when Newt Gingrich will admit that he’s licked and give up his presidential campaign. After losses in Mississippi and Alabama last week — which were probably the last states in which he could have been said to have a decent chance of victory — many wrongly assumed that he would draw the proper conclusions and withdraw. But he hasn’t and despite abysmal poll ratings, there’s no sign that he will. Why? Politico offers a reasonable answer: He’s having too good a time running.
The piece, titled “New Gingrich’s Twin Campaigns,” poses the contradiction between the happy warrior on the hustings and the financial realities of an enterprise that appears to have gone bust months ago. While vendors, staffers and consultants are being stiffed for their expenses and salaries, the candidate and his wife are enjoying what the article aptly calls “Newt and Callista’s Excellent Adventure,” in which they combine fine dining, numerous visits to zoos (Newt’s favorite pastime) and other site-seeing activities with speeches before increasingly sparse audiences. Viewed in this light, the Gingrich campaign appears to be more of a paid vacation for the happy couple than a quixotic quest for the presidency. Under these circumstances, we can expect him to keep running as long as there is enough money in the till to pay for hotels and restaurant tabs.
The political calculus that outside observers have tried to use to determine Gingrich’s intentions appears to have no relation at all to his decision-making process. Gingrich is smart enough to know he can’t win but seems oblivious to the impact of his continued presence in the race on the other candidates. Though his animus for Mitt Romney is obvious, rather than seeing him as a conservative whose priority was to stop the frontrunner in the way that Rick Santorum’s effort has been pitched, it might be more apt to see him in the same light as the far more marginal Ron Paul.
Paul’s continued run has nothing to do with the practicalities of the race or whether he will win or lose. He’s running to promote his extremist libertarian ideology and can be expected to keep going until the nomination of another candidate forces him to stop. Gingrich is also being propelled by a personal agenda rather than political strategy. The only difference is that Gingrich’s personal agenda is about Gingrich and nothing else. Despite his talk about his wish list of presidential initiatives that he will undertake in the event he is elected, Gingrich has been running for the fun of being in the race and little else.
The only thing that could force him to get off the road is if he runs out of money. Since his campaign is using all available cash to fund the Newt and Callista tour, it’s possible there’s enough to keep him on his long vacation for some time to come. However the day will come when the piper will have to be paid and one imagines that Gingrich is counting on some of the wealthy friends that have helped finance him so far to step in after the fact and pay off what may prove to be an onerous campaign debt. Candidates are personally responsible for these debts. That’s why most drop out quickly once it is clear they can’t win since they dread spending the next decade desperately fundraising to pay for an effort that has already failed.
While Newt and Callista are having a great time, one wonders if it is has occurred to her that if he really intends to keep it up until the September convention, she may have to pawn some of those trinkets that Newt bought for her at Tiffany’s.
The day after being embarrassed by Mitt Romney in Puerto Rico, Rick Santorum was taking tough in Illinois about a brokered Republican convention. Blasting the frontrunners as a “Massachusetts moderate,” Santorum vowed the convention would nominate a conservative, meaning that he would fight to the last ditch and last delegate to prevent a Romney nomination. But if the latest polls indicating a substantial Romney victory in Illinois are true, then perhaps Santorum will be singing a different tune in the upcoming weeks.
We’ve spent the last couple of weeks monitoring Newt Gingrich’s campaign for signals that he was about to pull out possibly in favor of Santorum. The Pennsylvanian can look forward to a possible victory in Louisiana this coming weekend. But after that, despite all of the brave talk coming from his campaign, the list of states that he can win is not that long. So if Santorum falls short tomorrow in Illinois as he did in Michigan and Ohio or, even worse, gets badly beaten there in the popular vote as well as in the individual delegate contests, it might be time for him to start reassessing his own options.
Rick Santorum invested a fair amount of precious, time and resources into campaigning for Sunday’s Puerto Rico Republican presidential primary. But it turned out to be a poor use of scarce resources for the GOP challenger at a time when he could least afford it. Mitt Romney cruised to a landslide victory in the Commonwealth. Romney won all 20 delegates up for grabs as residents of the island turned out in relatively strong numbers. Despite promoting himself as the senator from Puerto Rico, whatever hopes the Pennsylvanian might have had in Puerto Rico were probably sunk when he asserted that the island must adopt English as its official language if it wants statehood. Santorum got only 8 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast, the sort of dismal result he might have gotten even without bothering to show up there last week as he did.
Romney can now brag that he has the ability to generate support for Hispanic voters even though none of this who turned out on Sunday will have the ability to vote for him in November. But no matter how you spin the result, the delegates he won gets him a bit closer to the nomination. Just as important, the win gives him an extra touch of momentum heading into the pivotal Illinois primary on Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal reports on Newt Gingrich, who is in Illinois once again comparing himself favorably to Ronald Reagan. “Other than Ronald Reagan, I know of no Republican in my lifetime who’s been able to talk like this,” Gingrich told a banquet crowd in Palatine, referring to his own policy ideas on energy, brain science and other matters. “That’s why I’m still running, because the gap is so huge.”
The Journal goes on to say, “If Mr. Gingrich has failed to capture the party’s imagination in his bid for its presidential nomination, he says, it isn’t his fault. He offers big ideas, but ‘the news media can’t cover it, and my opponents can’t comprehend it,’’ he says.”
The latest surveys of Illinois Republicans ought to put at least a bit of a damper on the growing speculation about a GOP stalemate leading to a brokered convention. The Fox Chicago News poll shows Mitt Romney holding onto a solid 37-31 percentage point lead over Rick Santorum in next Tuesday’s primary, with Newt Gingrich trailing badly at 14 percent. A new Rassmussen poll gives Romney an even bigger lead with a 41-32 percentage point lead with Gingrich also at 14 percent. Yet Romney, who is reportedly outspending Santorum in the state by a 5-1 margin, is taking no chances in Illinois. Nor should he. The Land of Lincoln may well be the last clear shot Santorum has to knock off the frontrunner in a major state where few thought he would have a chance to pull off an upset that could potentially alter the dynamic of the contest. Having narrowly failed to do so in Michigan and Ohio, Illinois is perhaps Santorum’s last opportunity on the primary calendar to show the party he can do more than just place a close second in a state where the GOP is not dominated by evangelicals.
Though Santorum, who has often outperformed his poll results (such as he did this past Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama) is certainly still within striking range in Illinois, his biggest obstacle is not so much the deluge of Romney ad attacks (though that certainly doesn’t help his cause) as it is the decision of Newt Gingrich to stay in the race. Gingrich has spent the last couple of days promoting the idea that only by remaining on the ballot can Romney be denied the chance to gain a majority of the delegates before the convention. That’s a dubious notion that is being seconded by some Romney supporters seeking to stir the pot. But as in Michigan and Ohio, Gingrich’s only role is that of spoiler. Were he to get out now, it would give Santorum at the very least an extra few percentage points that may mean the difference between a stunning first place finish and another disappointing second place result that will have to be spun as a moral victory.
After Newt Gingrich’s defeats in Mississippi and Alabama this week, the expectation in some quarters was that the former speaker would realize he had no hope to win the nomination and bow out of the race. Certainly that’s what Rick Santorum and his supporters were hoping. It would set up the one-on-one matchup with Mitt Romney that they think will give him a chance to turn the GOP race around. Though there have been signs some in Gingrich’s campaign are looking for the exit signs, the candidate is giving no indication he’s giving up yet. Last week, I came up with seven reasons why Gingrich won’t quit, and I think they are still valid. But apparently he has come up with another one to justify the continuation of his presidential run: staying in the race hurts Romney.
This seems counterintuitive as Gingrich’s presence on the ballot diverted a portion of the conservative vote away from Santorum and probably cost the Pennsylvanian first place finishes in Michigan and Ohio. It might do the same next week in Illinois, a primary that could be a turning point in the race should Santorum pull an upset. The idea put forward by Gingrich’s camp is that because the GOP’s rules this year have encouraged proportional delegate allocation, keeping the nomination battle a three-way race (not counting libertarian outlier Ron Paul who is polling in the single digits just about everywhere these days) means Romney will be deprived of the ability to rack up large delegate hauls, thus making it impossible for him to reach a majority before the convention. Though this is a weak argument, it may be all Gingrich requires to justify continuing his ego-gratifying presidential run.