Numerically it may not officially be over... but with his sweep of Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., Mitt Romney is on a trajectory to the nomination.
Romney also crossed an important symbolic threshold Tuesday night, passing the halfway mark in his march toward the 1,144 delegates needed to clinch the nomination. He now has well over 600 delegates, more than twice the number Rick Santorum claims.
But I'm still hesitant at this point to give Romney his proper credit as the presumptive nominee.
Yes, sometimes tough primaries have a way of making candidates better, a more well-oiled machine.
However, with Romney it seems like he always has a way of stepping on his own message. Either he reminds us of his enormous wealth or there is some huge gaffe.
Remember the morning after Romney's big Florida victory when he said: "I'm not concerned about the very poor," adding that there was a social safety net in place and that he was focused on the middle class.
Or better yet: the day after winning Illinois, the now infamous "Etch A Sketch"comment made by Romney senior aide Eric Fehrnstrom during an interview on CNN. Fehrnstrom was asked if Romney's efforts to woo conservative voters in the primary would hurt him in the general election and said, "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." Romney's political opponents on both sides of the aisle said it was evidence of political opportunism.
Minutes after Romney won Maryland's Republican primary Tuesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley called the candidate "Gov. Etch A Sketch" and slammed his support of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget.
If Team Romney can make it past the next few days with no gaffe, then bravo!
So yes, it was a huge night for Romney; he has all but won the nomination and beat back his rivals.
In the past two weeks, a number of prominent Republicans have announced their support for frontrunner Romney, including former President George H.W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.
Rick Santorum is to the point of almost throwing Hail Mary's. Santorum's strategy is to stay in the race for his home state of Pennsylvania April 24, and head on into May, where he believes there are several states that will be more friendly terrain for him, like Texas.
"We have now reached the point where it's half-time," Santorum told the Pennsylvania crowd, having long since left Wisconsin.
"Who's ready to charge out of the locker room in Pennsylvania for a strong second half?"
However, Romney has his hands full. He has greatly outspent his Republican rivals, but in all likelihood, he won't be able to compete with President Obama's war chest, and to give you an idea of the road ahead, the president is already mocking the GOP primary for tilting so far to the right that party icon Ronald Reagan "could not get through a Republican primary today."
The good news for Romney: Republicans are closing ranks around him and the primary schedule in the weeks ahead is loaded with northeastern states that will likely give him more wins -- and crucial delegates.
The bad news: the gender gap and the GOP's Latino problem. Romney has to continue to spend money until Santorum drops out (if Santorum does) and Romney is trailing in several major battleground states for the fall.
If that's not enough of a hurdle, will conservative voters ever show Romney some love?
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