Commentary Magazine


Topic: GOP race

Another Pennsylvania Humiliation in Store for Santorum?

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.

Read More

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.

Santorum’s difficulties at home should come as no surprise to those who have been following his efforts. Though Santorum’s impressive victories in the Middle West and South have erased some of the sting from his landslide defeat for re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, that defeat is still very much in the minds of most Pennsylvanians. If, as James Carville memorably said of the state, Pennsylvania is “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between,” Santorum lost six years ago in no small measure because he forgot you can’t run there as if the Alabama part was the only place that voted. Santorum’s appeal on social issues has won him a string of victories in the Deep South, but it is not to be forgotten that his perceived extremism was a major factor in his 2006 defeat.

Mitt Romney is a good fit for many Pennsylvania Republicans. They think his more centrist approach, which is anathema in the Deep South, might actually give them a chance to carry the state in November. Many Tea Partiers still hold a grudge against Santorum for backing Arlen Specter over Pat Toomey in a 2004 senatorial primary. The fact that Toomey vouched for Romney’s conservative credentials at a conference in the state last week was not lost on many in the state GOP.

With four weeks to go until Pennsylvanians go to the polls on April 24, Santorum has plenty of time to try and pad his slim lead. But his biggest problem is that it is going to be increasingly difficult to maintain the illusion he actually still has a chance to be the Republican nominee. With nearly half the delegates already chosen and with most of the states that have yet to vote not dominated by the evangelicals who helped win him several primaries, it is no longer enough for Santorum to merely be the leading “not Romney.” Gingrich’s collapse means he really does have the one-on-one matchup with Romney that he always desired, but it turns out this doesn’t guarantee him victory. Indeed, with Pennsylvania evenly split between the two, the end may be nearer for Santorum’s campaign than even his critics may have thought.

Read Less

Yelling at the NYT Won’t Help Santorum

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?

Read More

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?

Since those debates, Gingrich’s support has plummeted and pundits are now on deathwatch, waiting for his campaign to finally announce its conclusion. Santorum’s appeal, meanwhile, has kept him in the final two contenders past Super Tuesday, something next to no one saw coming even a few months ago. Many a pundit has commented on what they believe Santorum’s appeal is to the base, why he has outlasted every other hype candidate to the final mile of the GOP nomination race. I think his ability to stay in the race this late in the game is thanks primarily to two factors: He stuck it out, kept his cool, and stayed on message long enough to become the Not-Romney at the right time. He also comes across as a pretty nice guy, if you don’t read into the liberal media narrative that he’s a General in the War on Women, that is.

Santorum appeals to the socially conservative that were faced with Gingrich, a serial philanderer and Cain, a man whose candidacy unraveled with new reports of shady behavior with women every day until he eventually succumbed and dropped out. He’s a family man who, at the apex of his run, took a few days off to spend time with his special needs daughter who had been hospitalized with serious complications. He wears a sweater vest unironically; he really does come across as the guy next door.

It’s best for Santorum to keep in mind what it is about his candidacy that appeals to voters. While videos of dust-ups with the New York Times may get a lot of spin, airtime and YouTube hits, the first thing I noticed was this: Twenty seconds after Santorum exclaims “It’s bullshit!” – a blonde head, half the height of everyone else around her, comes into view. Santorum lost his cool and cursed in front of what appears to be a young girl who was standing in line to get her campaign placard signed. This isn’t the candidate social conservatives have rallied around and it won’t get Santorum any closer to the nomination.

Read Less

CPAC Head: Conservatives Must Unite Behind Romney

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.

Read More

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.

This is the general conclusion many analysts have been coming to the past few weeks. But Santorum’s campaign has been arguing that his big win in Louisiana during the weekend is a sign Romney isn’t inevitable. The fact that Cardenas published this column right on the heels of Santorum’s victory is a pretty direct repudiation of that argument.

Despite the outcome in Louisiana, the next month looks pretty grim for Santorum. He’s projected to lose in Wisconsin and the handful of other April primaries, and it’s not necessarily a given that he’ll win in his home state of Pennsylvania. It may not be long before he exits the race, though he could be the first candidate to do so. It wouldn’t be a major surprise if Newt Gingrich keeps up his novelty campaign until the convention, and Ron Paul still seems content to play out his own unique delegate strategy.

Read Less

Santorum Wants to be “Mr. May”

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.

Read More

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.

In the wake of his victory during the weekend in Louisiana, Santorum is still pretending the Republican race is far from decided and that, as was the case earlier in the campaign, several more momentum changes are to be expected. But having already had the chance to really alter the dynamic of the GOP contest in states like Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and lost, it’s just not possible to go on pretending he has a ghost of a chance to win a majority of delegates. Even more to the point, by the time May arrives, he will have already lost another few contests that will make the current hole in which he finds himself (relative to Mitt Romney) far deeper.

If we concede, as Santorum already seems to have done, that he will lose Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia next week and almost certainly get creamed in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware later in the month, that leaves his home state of Pennsylvania as the only one where he has a chance in April. Even if he wins there, and that is by no means a certainty and will in any case be diminished by his failure to again field a full slate of delegates, Santorum will enter May even farther behind than he already is now. His prospects may be better in North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia on May 8, but by then even most conservatives will have gotten the message that prolonging the GOP contest is pointless. Even if Santorum refuses to take the hint and pull out sometime that month, by June, Romney will be so close to winning the necessary majority of delegates that any decision on Santorum’s part won’t be significant.

Of course, being a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, Santorum may not be aware that the designation of “Mr. May” isn’t necessarily a good thing. Some 30 years ago, the late George Steinbrenner labeled outfielder Dave Winfield with that moniker–and didn’t mean it as a compliment. What the New York Yankees needed he said was another “Mr. October” (i.e. Reggie Jackson) not a “Mr. May” who played like a star when the chips weren’t on the line. In this case, most Republicans seem to have decided that Romney is their “Mr. November” this year. It remains to be seen whether he can deliver, but whether he does or not, Santorum’s boasts about potential victories in the spring will be long forgotten by the time the real action happens in the fall.

Read Less

Louisiana Won’t Shift Race Momentum

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.

Read More

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.

The April results will pad Romney’s delegate advantage and bring him much closer to the magic number of 1,144. Santorum will fight hard in Wisconsin but trails badly and given the results in other Midwestern states that he has already lost, there’s no reason to believe he’ll do better there. April 3, when Wisconsin, Maryland and the District of Columbia vote will be good for Romney. Looking ahead the only state that will vote in April where Santorum has a shot is his home base in Pennsylvania. But even though he currently leads in the polls, there are danger signs even there for him. Plagued even there, as he has been throughout the country, apparently he won’t have delegate slates in every district meaning that even if he holds on and wins the popular vote there, Romney may still win a majority of delegates. That could make April 24, exactly one month after Louisiana votes, a day of reckoning for Santorum as Romney wins in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware bury his hopes.

It should be acknowledged that Santorum’s primary run has been an amazing accomplishment. With virtually no organization and short of money, he has amassed an impressive series of victories and an impressive delegate total. If heading into this year, Republicans spoke of Mike Huckabee’s out-of-nowhere showing in 2008 as the template for conservative upstarts, Santorum has done far better. It won’t be nearly enough to win him the Republican nomination but it has reclaimed his reputation as a successful politician and given him a future in his party.

So while no one should begrudge Santorum his celebration tonight or his right to spend the next few weeks trying to pull off a miracle, it’s only a matter of time until Romney clinches. Nothing that happened Saturday in Louisiana can change that.

Read Less

Time for Santorum to Chill

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.

Read More

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.


What we’re seeing, I suspect, is a candidate who knows deep in his bones that he won’t win the nomination and as a result he’s lashing out. In doing so, Santorum isn’t doing himself any favors. It’s important that those in his campaign and who have standing in his life do all they can to prevent Santorum from becoming bitter, self-righteous, and self-destructive. Rick Santorum has run an impressive campaign in many respects; he’s done better than almost anyone imagined. And he’s certainly resuscitated his political career. But he risks undoing much of what he’s achieved with these intemperate attacks.

According to press accounts, during one of the debates, when Santorum grew frustrated, his wife Karen walked up to him during a commercial break and told him, “Chill.”

That was good counsel then and it’s good counsel now.

Read Less

No Basis for Skepticism About Inevitability

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.

Read More

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.

As Nate Silver writes in today’s New York Times, all Romney has to do to win the nomination is to win 46 percent of the delegates still up for grabs. But even a pessimistic evaluation of his chances in the remaining states to vote would give him far more than 50 percent. Romney has already won more than double those won by his competitors and the tough part of the calendar for him will be over this weekend after Louisiana votes. Silver estimates his chances now of gaining a majority of delegates at 91 percent, which strikes me as reasonable if a bit on the low end. The odds of Santorum getting a majority are virtually zero. In politics, as in sports, you have to always remember that anything can happen. Yet the only ways by which Romney is beaten now involves scenarios that are about as likely as his campaign bus getting struck by a meteorite.

It should also be remembered that none of this is happening in a vacuum. As John Podhoretz wrote in today’s New York Post, those hoping for a brokered convention haven’t thought through the consequences of their dream coming true. Irrespective of what anybody thinks about Romney, such a thing would be, as John pointed out, nothing short of a catastrophe for the GOP and guarantee Barack Obama’s re-election as well as doom the party’s Congressional hopes.

One of the reasons why the discussion about the race has moved to one about how exactly the endgame will play out it is that everyone knows this. The idea that Rick Santorum would act in such a way as to deliberately sabotage Romney’s chances in November merely to make an ideological point or out of spite is absurd and shows little insight into his character or record as a politician. Once it’s clear that his hand has been played out, he will withdraw to preserve his future in the party. I’d estimate that moment comes in mid-May at the latest. But whether I’m right about that date or not, unless Santorum miraculously starts winning the sort of states where he has been consistently beaten this year, he will not seek to prolong the race beyond the point where he has no chance of winning.

That might not be what some bitter-end opponents of Romney want to hear but the sooner they make their peace with the inevitable GOP nominee, the better his chances of winning in November will be.

Read Less

Mitt Romney, De Facto Nominee

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.

Read More

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.

The exit poll results from Illinois (analyzed here) are interesting. What they show is that Romney has improved his standing by a considerable margin among groups that he’s done well with throughout this primary season. For example, Romney routed Santorum among Catholics (21 percentage points); those with a four-year college degree (also by 21 points); those earning at least $100,000 (by 36 points); those who describe themselves as moderate or liberal (by 20 points); and among voters who describe themselves as somewhat conservative (the margin was 23 points) and non-evangelicals (27 points). Romney also won among Tea Party supporters (by six points) and improved his standing among working class voters and those earning between $50,000-$100,000 a year (he tied Santorum in that category). The former Massachusetts governor also made inroads among evangelical Christians (he lost this group to Santorum by 10 points, a large margin but less than in comparable states). Romney did lose to Santorum by a wide margin (13 points) among those who self-identify as very conservative.

What we saw, then, is that the basic pattern of this campaign played out in Illinois, but Romney did better with almost every demographic group than he did in Ohio and Michigan. The GOP primary race template remains in place, except that Romney is growing much stronger with those groups that are inclined to support him while his opponents are doing a good deal weaker. Newt Gingrich ceased to be much of a factor a while ago, while Rick Santorum has not been able to broaden his appeal. In retrospect, Santorum’s failure to win in Ohio and Michigan did irreparable damage to his candidacy; Illinois will be seen as the state that finally broke him.

As for the state of the race right now, Governor Romney has won right around half the delegates needed to win the nomination (560 out of 1,144). He has to win less than half of the remaining delegates (roughly 45 percent) in order to secure the nomination. He’s won more than 1.3 million more votes than Santorum, his closest challenger. And Romney has won 21 of the 33 contests held so far. The chances of a brokered convention remain small; and the odds that the nomination would go to anyone other than Romney are near zero. That reality will gradually dawn on the supporters of Gingrich and Santorum, and perhaps even on the two candidates themselves.

There’s no question that between now and the general election Governor Romney needs to buttress his standing among evangelicals, rural and non-college educated voters, and those who consider themselves very conservative. He needs their enthusiastic support f he hopes to dislodge President Obama in the Fall. Governor Romney also has some repair work to do with independents; the primary campaign took its toll on him with independents. But those tasks, while not easy, are eminently doable. For now, Mitt Romney, really for the first time, can breathe a sigh of relief. Almost everyone can now see that he will win the nomination of the Republican Party. And he has a better than even chance of becoming America’s 45th president.

There are worse ways to begin the Spring than that.

Read Less

Jeb Endorsement May Ease the Sting of Romney Advisor’s “Etch A Sketch” Gaffe

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.

Read More

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.

While it is true that any candidate will sound a bit different in a general election than in a primary, that’s exactly the sort of statement that reminds conservatives of Romney’s record of flip-flopping and why they don’t trust him. He is the last candidate whose staffers should be talking about fall resets. Republicans would like to believe that the Romney who spoke last night after his win about the imperative of economic freedom being the driving force of his campaign was the real candidate. Fehrstrom’s “Etch A Sketch” comment is likely to be catnip for Rick Santorum’s campaign and help ensure that, no matter what follows, Romney will get spanked in Louisiana.

That makes it more than just an ordinary gaffe. If Romney wants to convince conservatives he means it, he’ll have to start by suspending Fehrnstrom. In the meantime, he’ll hope that Jeb Bush’s belated endorsement will take some of the sting out of what may be a bad news cycle for him.

Read Less

Santorum’s Remarkable Journey

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.

Read More

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.

And yet, here he is, clearly the runner-up. And, as he pointed out in his concession speech last night, he has obviously influenced the frontrunner. Romney’s victory speech—he is by no means a natural orator, but it was best I’ve heard him give—came right out of the Santorum playbook: framing the upcoming general election as a battle between personal freedom and ever greater state control of the American economy and, thus, American lives.

In other words, Santorum’s run, while it failed in its ultimate goal of the Republican nomination, brought him back from the land of the politically dead and forced the apparent winner towards his positions. He has earned a place at the table and, probably, a major job in a Romney administration.  That’s not a bad result when you think about it. It’s a whole lot more than Tim Pawlenty, Michelle Bachmann, or Rick Perry got out of their months on the rubber-chicken circuit.

Read Less

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.

Read More

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.

Read Less

Romney Juggernaut Sets Up GOP Endgame

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.

Read More

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.

It is true that Romney is still losing among evangelical and very conservative GOP primary voters. But he is winning virtually every other demographic slice of the electorate including Tea Party supporters. While not being acclaimed with acclamation or even a great deal of enthusiasm, the notion that Republicans are unwilling to embrace Romney may be finally being put to rest. Those voting in GOP primaries continue to assert that the ability to beat President Obama in November is the most desirable quality in a candidate and there’s little doubt that Romney has the best chance of any Republican in the race.

Romney also appears to be hitting his stride as a candidate finally articulating a compelling case for his candidacy. His victory speech last focused on the theme of economic freedom rather than merely his usual laundry list of complaints about the president. If he can stay on that message, it will help him win over doubtful conservatives as well as reminding the rest of the electorate of his economic qualifications.

Though Santorum and Gingrich continue to complain about Romney’s huge financial advantage that excuse is also not exactly galvanizing the Republican base. The inability to raise the funds needed to compete or to run a campaign that is competent enough to file qualified delegate states wherever needed — points on which both challengers have fallen short — is hardly a recommendation for a presidential candidate. Even if Santorum is able to duplicate in Louisiana the same appeal that won him Mississippi and Alabama last week, that won’t convince anyone that he can win states with more diverse electorates, let alone amass enough delegates to prevent Romney from gaining a majority by June.

This sets up a GOP endgame in which Santorum, who has done far better than anyone ever thought possible last year, will play out the hand he has been dealt in the next few weeks. But there are few, if any, other wins waiting for him on the calendar. That will raise expectations that whether or not he wins Pennsylvania, his campaign will probably come to an end in the next four to six weeks.

Read Less

Illinois Shows Santorum’s Weaknesses

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.

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.

Read Less

Romney Still Up By Double-Digits in Illinois

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%.

Read More

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%.

Keep in mind; Santorum has performed better than polling projections, particularly in Alabama and Mississippi. And when it came to predicting the outcome in the Magnolia state, both PPP and ARG were way out of range, as Ed Morrissey explains:

Let’s not forget that both PPP and ARG didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory when it came to polling Mississippi.  Four days before the primaries, ARG had Santorum 15 points off the lead, with Gingrich edging Romney 35/31 and Santorum at 20%.  The day before the primary, PPP had Santorum trailing by six in third place.  Santorum ended up winning Mississippi by two points and 4500 votes.  That counts as a pretty big swing and a miss, even in primary polling.

But it’s less likely there will be a big discrepancy between the polling and final outcome in Illinois. At the Washington Post, Scott Clement notes that Alabama and Mississippi polls under-sampled evangelical turnout, a group Santorum tends to have broad support with.

This phenomenon may be muted in Illinois for at least one reason. The Huffington Post’s Mark Blumenthal finds a correlation between Santorum’s outperformance and the percentage of evangelicals in the state. As noted earlier, Illinois was about average in the percentage of evangelicals in 2008, while Alabama and Mississippi set records for the most evangelical electorates this year.

PPP found that evangelicals in Illinois support Santorum over Romney, but the margins aren’t wide enough to make much of a difference in the state.

Read Less

Asking the Wrong Question About Gingrich

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.

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.

Read Less

Santorum Won’t Sabotage Romney

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.

Read More

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.

No matter what happens in the next weeks and months, Santorum has run a remarkable campaign. Considering that virtually no one other than himself thought he had a chance to even last this long, let alone win 10 primaries and caucuses, he’s come a very long way in the last six months. During this presidential election cycle, pundits wondered who would be the 2012 version of Mike Huckabee in terms of a dark horse who does far better than anyone imagined. But in future GOP presidential contests — whether the next one is 2016 or 2020 — we will be asking who will be the next Santorum since he has surpassed the paltry victories won by Huckabee.

But the mention of 2016 or 2020 ought to also cause us to wonder whether Santorum is really going to be willing to wreck the GOP convention just to prove a point about the need to prevent the nomination of a moderate or to give Romney some payback for all the abuse he has dished out in attack ads.

Right now, even if Santorum doesn’t get walloped in Illinois, the odds of him winning the nomination are slim. If he ends the primary season with a reasonable chance of stopping Romney, no one in the party could fault him for carrying his efforts to the national convention the way Ronald Reagan did in 1976 when the GOP nomination was a close-run thing. But if, after the next few weeks, Santorum is nowhere near Romney in terms of pledged delegates and Romney is quite close to clinching, the question that must asked and answered is whether Santorum is prepared to destroy his future in the party just to spite the eventual nominee.

Though he continues to be abused as an extremist on social issues by the mainstream media, Santorum has established himself on the national stage as a figure to be reckoned with this year. If the Republicans don’t win in November, he will automatically become considered a strong candidate for 2016. He is also young enough at 53 to contemplate a presidential run in 2020 or beyond. While he is not the sort of person that I would expect to play a cynical game when it comes to presidential politics, it should also be remembered that he spent most of his political life as a “team player,” that was always ready to see the big picture on issues and elections.

After having won so many contests, he deserves to play out the hand he is dealt in the coming weeks. But put me down as being skeptical that Santorum would do anything out of spite or to merely drag down Romney once it is certain that his own chances are lost. In the last few months, Rick Santorum, a man whose 2006 Pennsylvania defeat marked him as something of a joke, has redeemed his reputation as a politician. Like him or not, and in contrast to Newt Gingrich, he is now someone with a future in Republican politics. I doubt Santorum will do anything to burn his bridges with his party.

Read Less

Mitt’s Island Landslide Sets Up Big Week

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.

Read More

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.

While nothing that happens on Tuesday will knock Santorum out of the race, Illinois looms large in his hopes to topple the frontrunner. It represents one of the last chances he has to beat Romney in a large state. If he falls short as he did in Michigan and Ohio, then it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to claim that he is anything but a factional spoiler with no chance of winning the nomination.

Were Santorum to win in Illinois, and right now all the polls taken so far show him trailing, then it will be a huge boost for his presidential hopes. More importantly, it would be the sort of blow to his credibility that would make the Mr. Inevitable reputation that his campaign is trying so hard to promote look silly. At the same time, consecutive victories by Santorum in Illinois and then in Louisiana next weekend would be the sort of momentum shift that would have Republicans wondering if Santorum could win the nomination outright.

But Romney appears on track right now to put an end to that happy scenario for Santorum. A big win in Illinois would be the sort of thing that might lead many Republicans to tell Santorum that it was time for him to bring the contest to an end. Though his backers may be looking forward to a brokered convention, as a man who hopes he has future in the GOP, Santorum must know that there will be negative long range consequences for him if his actions sabotage Republican hopes in 2012 by hanging on long after he lost any chance to win. A big Romney win on Tuesday could lead to exactly this sort of a discussion in the GOP.

That’s why Romney is working hard in Illinois even though he has a lead. In a race that has been filled with ups and downs and upsets of every variety, if Romney outperforms expectations there as he did in Illinois, it could be the beginning of the end for Santorum.

Read Less

Newt Gingrich, Miracle Worker

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.”

Read More

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.”

That sounds to me to be a bit of an exaggeration. But just for fun, let’s assume Gingrich is as monumental a political figure, and as hyper-intelligent a person, as he believes. Let’s assume he is the only person in nearly 70 years who is Reagan’s equal in terms of brilliance, mastery of the issues, and in his ability to articulate a conservative vision.

If that’s the case, the obvious next question is what explains the fact that Gingrich has won just two out of 31 nominating contests so far? If he’s as good on policy and vision as he says, the only reasonable explanation is that Gingrich’s deficits must be monumental. Because how on earth could you keep Gingrich’s unparalleled gifts and talents under a bushel? It cannot be easy – but Newt Gingrich has somehow found the way to make himself unappealing to the vast majority of Republican voters.

The man must be a miracle worker.

 

Read Less

Gingrich Helping Romney in Illinois

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.

Read More

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.

From the very beginning of the race, Romney has benefitted from a divided field that has enabled him to win victories he might never have achieved had he been left to face a single, credible conservative. It may be a matter of opinion whether Santorum qualifies as that person, but so long as Gingrich continues to muddy the conservative waters, it will be to Romney’s advantage.

Though observers are right to point out that Romney can ultimately win by piling up enough delegates even in states where he loses, the one real danger to his candidacy is for Santorum to rack up some upsets in states where he was thought to have no hope. Illinois is one such contest. Wisconsin, which is a winner-take-all primary in early April, is another. If Romney fails to win them, then he becomes prey to the sort of doubts that really could unravel his plans and lead to the brokered convention scenario that is a pundit’s fantasy and a GOP nightmare.

Gingrich may claim he is staying in to promote his “big ideas” agenda, but by allowing Romney to win a plurality in Illinois that he might not get without having another conservative in the race, Gingrich is sabotaging what might be Santorum’s last best chance to become the nominee. That is good news for Romney at a time when he needs to put together a winning streak that will convince his party he really is Mr. Inevitable.

Read Less

Gingrich Death Watch May Be on Hold

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.

Read More

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.

This thesis is endorsed by Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chair who is largely responsible for this scheme in the first place and is rightly reviled by most in the GOP for doing so. Steele told the New York Times a Santorum-Gingrich double teaming of Romney would be a bigger burden to the frontrunner than a setup in which he was forced to confront a single conservative opponent.

There is, however, a fatal flaw in such thinking. After April 1, there are nearly as many winner-take-all primaries scheduled, including important races in Wisconsin and California, as there are proportional ones. Others will elect delegates on a winner-take-all basis by congressional district. In such states, Gingrich’s remaining on the ballot would almost certainly help Romney.

What Gingrich really seems to be hoping is that by staying in the race and accumulating more delegates even while losing he would increase his leverage if neither Romney nor Santorum secured enough votes to win the nomination on the first ballot. Though one could argue his leverage with Santorum will never be higher than it is today should he be willing to make a bargain of some sort with the Pennsylvanian, Gingrich’s dream scenario is really one where he could play the kingmaker at Tampa with Romney or with some theoretical dark horse who might emerge from a deadlock.

In a year where so much that was unexpected happened, we should all hesitate before scoffing at Gingrich’s reasoning. But this still seems to be more science fiction than political science. The plain fact of the situation is that unless Gingrich gets out and/or gets behind Santorum, the odds are Romney will wrap up the nomination by June. If Gingrich, who seems motivated as much by hatred for Romney as by his own ambition, seems to be working at cross purposes to his own interests, all we can say is anyone who remembers some of the bad judgment he showed in the speaker’s chair knows this wouldn’t be the first time he has done so.

Read Less