WASHINGTON -- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday that the race for the GOP presidential nomination is "about over" and that it's ultimately "[Mitt] Romney's to lose."
Speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week," the South Carolina senator came up short of saying GOP hopefuls Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich should bow out of the race. But he said that former Massachusetts Gov. Romney's commanding lead in the delegate count makes a comeback by any other candidate nearly impossible.
"He has almost a third of the delegates he needs," Graham said of Romney. "Mathematically, Rick [Santorum] would have to win 75 percent of what remains. He’s done an outstanding job, Rick has, of starting with almost nothing and being a real contender, and Newt’s come back from the dead two or three times. But mathematically, this thing is about over."
Graham has not endorsed any candidate officially, though recently he's shown signs that he's pulling for Romney. Late last month he said the grinding nomination process has made Romney "a better candidate." On Sunday Graham said that if Romney can win either Mississippi or Alabama on Tuesday and then Illinois later this month, the nomination would essentially be his.
"It’s Romney’s to lose," Graham said. "And quite frankly, every time he had his back against the wall he’s performed."
Graham also said he disagreed with a candid statement made by former Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.) over the weekend that a healing economy could hurt Republicans' prospects come fall. The economy added 227,000 jobs last month according to the Labor Department, a sign of growth that some Republicans, like Graham, have tried to throw cold water on. But speaking at a campaign stop in Missouri Saturday, Santorum said, "You know, the economy may be getting better and Republicans may lose their edge on that issue."
"I don't think he's right at all," Graham said of Santorum on Sunday. "This is an anemic recovery."