Romney virtually clinches earlier than expected
The pundit class lately agreed that front-runner Mitt Romney couldn’t lock up the Republican presidential nomination until June. Some analysts even warned that the GOP just might face a divisive “open convention” in Tampa starting on Aug. 27 after the former Massachusetts governor fell short of the delegate count needed to assure victory before then.
Then Tuesday, April 10, suddenly became Mr. Romney’s de facto clinching date.
That’s because Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a distant second in both primary votes and delegates, withdrew from the race yesterday by “suspending” his campaign.
Mr. Santorum, who has won 11 states in primaries and caucuses to 18 for Mr. Romney, didn’t say why he was dropping out. Speculation about his motives centered on the health of his 3-year-old daughter Bella, recently hospitalized for pneumonia — and the rising risk of losing his home state to Mr. Romney in the April 24 Pennsylvania primary.
Mr. Santorum didn’t mention Mr. Romney during Tuesday’s emotional suspension announcement in Gettysburg. Yet John Brabender, Mr. Santorum’s top strategist, later said that his boss had called Mr. Romney Tuesday morning and agreed to meet with him soon.
That sounds like a possible prelude to Mr. Santorum backing Mr. Romney.
And this leaves only former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has won just two states (South Carolina and Georgia), and Rep. Ron Paul, who has won none, as Mr. Romney’s competition for the nomination.
Mr. Gingrich billed himself Tuesday as the “conservative” alternative to Mr. Romney now that Mr. Santorum has dropped out. But only two days earlier, Mr. Gingrich had told “Fox News Sunday” that Mr. Romney is “far and away the most likely” Republican nominee.
In other words, though it’s not official yet, the GOP race is over.
South Carolina’s streak of the Republican nominee winning each of our state’s presidential primaries since they began in 1980 is over, too.
So the nation will have the general-election presidential matchup most experts had predicted all along — incumbent Democrat Barack Obama vs. Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
As usual, many Americans will lament their final two presidential options from the major parties. Certainly both men have harsh critics.
Still, this contest offers a clear distinction between opposing governing philosophies.
President Obama has led our nation to the left. He succeeded two years ago in pushing through a costly, sweeping health care reform law that is now in jeopardy of being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Obama has also presided over record deficits and debt without advancing a plan to deal with the onrushing fiscal crises facing Medicare and Social Security.
Gov. Romney, in keen contrast, cut taxes 19 times in a very liberal state while balancing the Massachusetts budget. And while he championed his own government-mandated health care reform, derisively dubbed “Romneycare” by detractors on both the right and the left, he has persuaded enough GOP primary voters of his commitment to conservative ideals to garner roughly 60 percent of the delegates determined so far.
Mr. Romney has, however, failed to win over much of the strongly conservative GOP base, especially in the South. So if he, as tradition advises, tries to move toward the middle for the general election, he might further alienate that group.
Mr. Obama, meanwhile, also seems likely to move to the center.
But when? On Tuesday, the president reprised the stale old liberal theme of soaking “the rich.”
Who has the general-election edge?
An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Tuesday showed the president with a 51-44 percent advantage over Mr. Romney among registered voters.
But Mr. Romney led that ABC/Post poll early last month.
The outcome that counts, of course, is the one that will be decided on Nov. 6 by the Americans who actually vote.
As of now, the race is on.