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In GOP Presidential Race, Fat Lady Finally Sings

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Although Mitt Romney has not yet accumulated the necessary 1,144 delegates, he will be the Republican presidential nominee unless the unthinkable happens, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed him. South Carolina Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint said the race is over and the time has come for the party to unite. Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, an ex-RNC chairman, said Romney has all but locked up the nomination.

You donít need to be a brain surgeon to understand what is happening.

The increased testiness of Santorum and Gingrich surely reflect their inability to derail Romney.

Santorumís explosion at New York Times reporter Jeff Zeleny may resonate well with conservatives who see a liberal behind every newspaper headline, but it also reflects the frustration that Santorum is feeling as the calendar advances without him gaining ground on Romney.

Santorum and Gingrich complain about Romneyís financial advantage and aggressive campaign tactics. He is outspending them 2-1, 4-1 or even 10-1, they argue. They are right, of course, that Romney wouldnít be doing as well with delegates if his campaign were broke and if he didnít have a heavily funded super PAC to move voter sentiment.

But so what? We all knew money would be a requirement to win the nomination, and whining about it the way Gingrich and Santorum do is the strategy of losers who suddenly find the rules of the game they entered unfair.

You can bet Santorum and Gingrich would take advantage without a secondís hesitation if they had the financial advantage.

Candidates who are losing invariably find many scapegoats. They sound desperate. Candidates who are winning stay on message and exude confidence.

Acknowledging the obvious ó that the race is over ó takes away nothing from Santorum, who worked hard to become the alternative to Romney, performed well in the debates and made some smart tactical choices about where to fight.

Gingrich had his moments, too, though his campaign was largely a mirage and little more than a reflection of the candidateís personality. While insisting that he would be the nominee, Gingrich wrote off key states and lacked the resources to become relevant.

Romney has not won the Republican nomination because he has been a perfect candidate or because he has learned how to appeal to primary voters who were initially suspicious of him. He won because he had a well-funded, national campaign that could destroy his opponents, respond to attacks at a momentís notice and recover from mistakes.

Those assets may or may not allow him to win in November. But they allowed him to win the nomination.

For Romney, at least, the fat ladyís voice is mellifluous.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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