With yesterday’s clean sweep of five more Republican primaries, Mitt Romney has clearly secured the GOP presidential nomination. And, for the first time, even previously cynical members of the Republican establishment now believe Romney has a real chance to defeat President Obama in November.
Thus, pressure is being exerted on all the remaining candidates, i.e., Newt Gingrich — and just-exiting candidates, i.e., Rick Santorum — to embrace Romney and get everyone on the same page.
So it was no coincidence that yesterday morning it was announced that Santorum and Mitt would be meeting next Friday, May 4, for their first sit-down since Santorum suspended his campaign.
And last night on CNN with Piers Morgan, a clearly still-reluctant Santorum, with his wife by his side, was almost bullied into endorsing (sort of!) Mitt Romney.
Next comes the vexing case of Newt Gingrich who, it was leaked, would reconsider his status if he lost Delaware yesterday. Indeed, he was soundly defeated by almost 30 points.
His money long ago dried up. His lone Super PAC supporter long ago signaled that he would stop writing multi-million dollar checks. So, in effect, Newt has been reduced to a candidate-in-name-only status. The spotlight he craves has dimmed and the media contingent that follows legitimate candidates has disappeared.
The GOP establishment has begun to exert pressure on the former speaker to drop out and endorse Romney. Party unity is being pushed as a precursor to waging an all-out, unified Republican and conservative assault on President Obama. But they can’t do this if a candidate is still in the race carping at Romney and attracting attention away from the main message.
Newt knows it is all over. But he has a hard time at the age of 68 giving up the spotlight as a presidential candidate; it is virtually certain that he will never again be a national political candidate. Plus he is angling for post-election speaking fees and maybe a TV gig to replace the Fox News contributorship he lost last spring when he began his campaign. Rumor has it he is talking to CNN.
On the other hand, inside-the-Beltway think tanks and big GOP donors can dangle attractive monetary inducements in front of Newt in order to get him out of the race and singing a harmonious pro-Mitt song.
With the GOP on the verge of unity, the focus on how to amass 270 Electoral votes has begun. It remains a daunting task. Contrary to close national polls, the actual race is leaning heavily for Obama as of today. He is within striking distance of the 270 needed to win and has many routes to that total.
Gov. Romney has a more difficult path including Ohio, which he almost must win but trails by 6 points. That is why Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is the leading candidate to become Romney’s running mate.
With six months to go, the GOP now believes Romney has a real chance to defeat Obama in a race none of them thought winnable a year ago.
Now it is up to Team Romney to run a campaign against a powerful president — and his allies in the so-called mainstream media — who will do anything to hold on to the Oval Office.
John LeBoutillier is a former U.S. congressman and a political commentator who has contributed to many major newspapers and magazines. Read more reports from John LeBoutillier — Click Here Now.
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