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%.
According to Public Policy Polling’s latest survey today, Mitt Romney is now leading Rick Santorum, 45 percent to 30 percent, in Illinois. And the obstacles aren’t easily surmountable for Santorum. Not only is Romney polling ahead with groups he normally tends to do poorly with – rural voters, for example – but Santorum’s support is lagging with groups he needs to win. In this case, Tea Partiers and values voters:
Santorum’s winning the group he tends to do well with- Tea Partiers, Evangelicals, and those describing themselves as ‘very conservative.’ But he’s not winning them by the kinds of wide margins he would need to take an overall victory- he’s up only 8 with Tea Party voters and 10 with Evangelicals, groups he needs to win by more like 25 points with to hope to win in a northern state.
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.
After last night’s twin triumphs in the Deep South for Rick Santorum, the future of the Republican presidential race has come down to one question: is there anything the Pennsylvanian can do to entice Newt Gingrich to drop out and endorse him or to just suspend his campaign? Though the delegate math still favors Mitt Romney, next week’s Illinois primary looms as yet another do-or-die test in much the same way Michigan and Ohio did. Santorum fell short in both of those states, allowing Mr. Inevitable to survive, though just barely. With polls showing Santorum only trailing Romney in Illinois by a few percentage points, the question is what can he do to make up the gap this time?
The obvious answer for Santorum is to somehow persuade Gingrich to get out of the race. I wrote last week detailing seven reasons why I thought the former speaker wouldn’t do it. I still think I’m right about that, but after defeats in Mississippi and Alabama, there is no longer any conceivable scenario by which Gingrich could be nominated. His mere presence on the ballot helps divide the conservative vote and might, as it did in Michigan and Ohio, allow Romney to squeak out a victory. If Gingrich is at all inclined to bargain with Santorum then his bargaining power will never be greater than it is at this moment. That leaves us to ponder whether the speaker might be willing to accept a promise of a place on the ticket or a cabinet post in exchange for backing Santorum.
The two primaries in Alabama and Mississippi were a trap for Rick Santorum because anything but victories for him could have been construed as devastating blows to his campaign. Wins by Mitt Romney would have demonstrated his ability to win in any part of the country including states where conservatives and evangelical voters predominate. Wins by Newt Gingrich would have given him a reason to go on other than his ego. But by sweeping both Deep South states that voted on Tuesday, Santorum added two more triumphs to the already impressive list of states that he has won. The delegate math will not be altered much today due to the proportional allocation system as well as Romney’s expected wins in Hawaii and American Samoa. But though Romney can still have a reasonable expectation of ultimately winning the nomination, Santorum’s momentum places the notion of his inevitability in doubt.
Even if, as I expect, Gingrich stays in the race after losing the last two states where he could have been said to have had a chance to win, Santorum is now in a position to do some real damage to the Romney juggernaut in the upcoming weeks. With polls already showing Romney having only a slight lead over Santorum in a large state like Illinois where he ought to win, Tuesday’s victories allow the Pennsylvanian to hope he can add to his string of upsets. If Santorum ends March by stacking up victories in Illinois, Louisiana and Missouri, then although he will still be trailing badly in the delegate count, his path to the nomination won’t look quite so much of a fantasy as it did a few weeks ago. Though Romney will still have impressive advantages, so long as the votes are still be counted state by state, momentum has a way of overwhelming math.