Romney’s Washington Win Ratchets Up Pressure On Santorum

3

santorum-romneyThe oxygen is running out for Rick Santorum.

The former Pennsylvania senator has a message that appeals to the base of the Republican Party. In many ways, he is the candidate that the grassroots want. But he is in danger of falling behind Mitt Romney — in terms of momentum and delegates — to a degree that will be hard to make up.

Santorum’s rhetorical excesses took him off track in Michigan this past week. He lost that state’s primary to Romney by three points in the popular vote, costing him a huge opportunity to build on the momentum he had gained with wins in three states on Feb. 7.

And on Saturday night, Santorum lost a symbolic vote to Romney when Washington Republicans voiced their support for the former Massachusetts governor in a straw poll at caucuses around the state.

Romney was declared the winner as soon as about 50 percent of the vote had been counted. When more than 80 percent of the vote had been counted, Romney had taken 36 percent, with just under 16,000 votes, while Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) narrowly led Santorum 25 to 24.6 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) had 10.8 percent.

The caucus vote is nonbinding. Washington’s 40 delegates will be awarded primarily based on a vote at the state Republican Party convention, which runs from May 30 to June 2.

But coming just three days before 10 states vote on Super Tuesday, it was a good headline, a momentum-booster and another step for Romney in the long march toward the nomination.

“The voters of Washington have sent a signal that they do not want a Washington insider in the White House,” Romney said in a statement emailed out by his campaign. “They want a conservative businessman who understands the private sector and knows how to get the federal government out of the way so that the economy can once again grow vigorously.”

New details also emerged Saturdayabout the extent to which Santorum’s lack of campaign infrastructure will hurt him in Ohio on Tuesday. He will be ineligible for up to 18 of Ohio’s 66 delegates. It had previously been reported that he could not compete for six delegates.

The Romney campaign pointed to Santorum’s lack of organization in Ohio and other states to argue that he is not ready to take on President Barack Obama’s reelection machine. For example, Santorum also failed to make the ballot entirely in Virginia, which will award 46 of its 49 delegates on Tuesday.

The Santorum campaign believes that despite the candidate’s missteps, he is connecting with the core voters of the Republican Party in a way that Romney is not. The problem is that the GOP establishment, by and large, believes Santorum presents a far worse match-up with Obama in the fall than does Romney, even if Romney’s many missteps and inability to close out the nomination have increased their anxiety about his prospects in the general election.

Romney, Santorum and Gingrich were all in Ohio on Saturday. All three participated in a televised forum on Fox News moderated by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who was a top contender for the GOP nomination in 2008.

The forum, filmed in a former DHL shipping plant that closed down in 2008, was highlighted by Romney’s exchange with David McArthur, a small-business owner from St. Louis who told the former Massachusetts governor, through tears, that his son has not been able to receive health coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs for a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“To those who put their lives on the line, we owe everything they need,” Romney replied, his own voice breaking at one point.

At the end of the show, Huckabee said that Romney had “showed a side of him that I had not seen: a deeply personal, emotional, passionate side that we had not really seen.”

“That’s been a criticism of Governor Romney. I thought he really blew the answer right out of the water. It was just a tremendous response,” Huckabee added.

Santorum, meanwhile, continued to be tripped up by inflammatory comments he’s made over the past few weeks. A college student, who was part of a three-person panel, asked Santorum why he had called Obama a “snob” for saying Americans should go to college and added that the comment “didn’t really sit well with my campus.”
As for Gingrich, he is scheduled to appear on the Sunday talk shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News and CNN. After being a nonfactor for most of the last month, he is hoping to reinsert himself back into the race by winning the Georgia primary on Super Tuesday.

But Gingrich also needs to do well in some other states where he’ll be competing head to head with Santorum, like Tennessee and Oklahoma.

Santorum will break off from Ohio on Sunday to campaign in Memphis and then Oklahoma City and Broken Arrow, Okla.

Romney will go to Georgia and Tennessee before heading back to Ohio Sunday night to campaign there on Monday.

Paul, continuing his effort to pick up delegates in every nook and cranny, will visit Alaska on Sunday, going to Fairbanks and Anchorage.

The holy grail is 1,144 delegates. All the candidates are far away from that number. Romney leads the pack with 185 to Santorum’s 90, Gingrich’s 33 and Paul’s 23.

On Tuesday, 391 delegates will be up for grabs. The Romney campaign sent out a memo from political director Rich Beeson on Saturday noting that Santorum is “already down 64 delegates,” because of his failure to file a full slate of delegates in Ohio and Tennessee, as well as his total absence from the ballot in Virginia.

Beeson pushed hard to make the argument that Romney is the only candidate who has the resources to win the primary, whether it ends soon or goes for several more months. “On Wednesday, March 7, the Santorum campaign will be looking at a significant deficit to Governor Romney in bound delegates and no realistic hope of closing that gap,” Beeson wrote. “The combination of proportional allocation and his regional weaknesses are going to make it virtually impossible for him catch up to Governor Romney in delegates, let alone ever get to 1,144.”

Most political observers share Beeson’s perspective or are at least leaning that way. That’s why a very strong performance by Santorum in Ohio, as well as in Tennessee and Oklahoma, is crucial for him to keep alive his hopes of staging a huge upset in the race for the Republican nomination.

{Huffington Post/Matzav.com Newscenter}

3 COMMENTS

  1. Why is the Republican Party, here in NY, trying to keep Santorum off the ballet? That’s not fair! Who gives them the right to disenfranchise so many voters? Is this communist Russia? Let us, the citizens, have our voice heard!

  2. meaningless.Tuesday is what counts.

    By NBC’s Mark Murray and John Bailey

    The Detroit Free Press today reported that the Michigan Republican Party voted last night to award the state’s two at-large delegates to the statewide winner — i.e, Mitt Romney — instead of dividing them up proportionally.

    That move, according the paper, would give Romney a 16-14 edge in delegates instead of the 15-15 tie between Romney and Santorum.

    As a result of this move, NBC has since changed the delegate count, 16-14.

    In response to criticism that the Michigan GOP changed its rules to benefit native son Mitt Romney, Michigan GOP committeeman Saul Anuzis — a Romney supporter — said the winner-take-all aspect for the at-large delegates was always agreed upon, and any misunderstanding was due to an error in the party’s memo.

    “Regrettably, there was an error in the memo drafted and sent to the respective campaigns,” Anuzis said. “There were questions raised at the time the memo was drafted as to whether the legal language used was accomplishing the goal of the committee and we were advised that it was, but now it is clear that the memo did not properly communicate the intent of the committee. The email traffic surrounding the drafting of the memo in early February makes explicitly clear what the intent of the committee was.”

    But in an interview with NBC News three weeks ago — on Feb. 8 — Michigan GOP Chair Robert Schostak clearly stated that Michigan’s at-large delegates would be awarded PROPORTIONALLY.

    HERE’S THE AUDIO OF THE INTERVIEW.

    Schostak said:

    “We start off with, after the penalty, 30 voting delegates. Okay? Each district-congressional district – you can win individually. So you have 14 districts you can win two delegates. That takes you to 28. Okay? The two at-large that remain, provided the individual candidate won at least 15 percent of the statewide vote – okay so with four candidates that’s likely to happen. Then they get awarded proportionally, those delegates, and then rounded to the nearest decimal point so there won’t be any half delegates or quarter delegates.”

    (Emphasis is ours.)

    The Michigan Republican Party has been rife with internal disagreements over the years, so it’s not surprising that it doesn’t even agree how its delegates should be awarded.

    *** UPDATE *** Here is a new statement to NBC News from the party’s communications director taking blame for not explaining “more clearly” and laying out the math.

    Matt Frendewey, director of communications, Michigan Republican Party:

    “It is unfortunate if I did not explain this more clearly. When the RNC indicated it would penalize our total delegates and award us only 30 delegates, the credentials committee met on Feb. 4 and interpreted the penalty by voting unanimously to send Michigan’s full delegation. Within congressional districts, designate two out of the three delegates as the RNC recognized delegates and two out of the 14 at-large as RNC recognized delegates.

    “The at-large delegates are still awarded proportionally to candidates that achieve the 15 percent threshold, the two RNC recognized delegates are assigned to the candidate that wins the most votes. Michigan’s results, without the RNC penalty, 28-Romney/28-Santorum. If the RNC upholds its penalty, 16-Romney, 14-Santorum.”

    That is of no consolation to the Santorum campaign.

    Per NBC’s Andrew Rafferty, here’s the response from Santorum national political director Hogan Gidley:

    “There’s just no way this is happening. We’ve all heard rumors that Mitt Romney was furious that he spent a fortune in his home state, had all the political establishment connections and could only tie Rick Santorum. But we never thought the Romney campaign would try to rig the outcome of an election by changing the rules after the vote. This kind of back room dealing political thuggery just cannot and should not happen in America.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here