Doug Schoen's Perspective:
With Mitt Romney now leading Rick Santorum by more than 2-1, it is clear that Santorum will not be able to close the delegate gap with the former Massachusetts governor during the Illinois primary tomorrow — when 69 delegates are at stake.
Mitt Romney's victory in Puerto Rico this weekend has increased his lead over Rick Santorum to 521 to 253 — positioning him as the clear and indeed most likely Republican nominee for president.
|Santorum (right) won't be able to catch Romney on Tuesday.
But while Romney has won 55 percent of the delegates thus far, his share of the total popular vote cast is well below 45 percent.
This means that Romney, by a substantial margin, is doing better with the mechanics of delegate counting than he is actually collecting votes from Republican primary voters who will presumably be eligible to vote in the fall general election.
Case in point — many of the delegates Romney has picked up since March 10 are from the Mariano Islands, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and Puerto Rico — jurisdictions whose impact on the fall election are negligible.
Further, the most recent Fox News poll, out last week, shows Mitt Romney's negative rating close to 50, and his positive rating below 40.
That being said, with Mitt Romney positioned to — at the very least — hold his own, if not increase his delegate lead over Rick Santorum tomorrow, it seems clear that neither Santorum on his own or Gingrich will be able to individually stop the former governor.
Republicans have spoken about why they hope to resolve their nomination well before their convention opens in Tampa on Aug. 27 to avoid further division and disarray.
And while the four leading candidates will almost certainly do everything they can do to resolve things — whether it be through deals, alliances — or horse-trading, there is one other possibility.
And that possibility is that a new candidate can enter the race.
To be sure, conventional wisdom would suggest that a long drawn out process would be fatal for the Republican Party.
However, history suggests that a new candidate — whether it be Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or Mitch Daniels — could well galvanize a party that has become increasingly dispirited and divided.
Let us recall how the surprise selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate four years ago galvanized a party that had been given up for dead and a campaign that had been given up for lost before the convention.
To be sure, with Gov. Romney doing better and better in delegate counts, it is still unlikely that this scenario will be reached, but it is one to take seriously.
Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist, Fox News contributor, and author of several books including the forthcoming "Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What It Means for 2012 and Beyond" (Rowman and Littlefield). Read more reports from Doug Schoen — Click Here Now.
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