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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.

Finally, it’s over. The fight for the GOP nomination, that is.

It’s only March, but it seems as if the GOP race for president has been going on for an eternity. Now, however, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won his party’s nomination and the right to take on President Barack Obama in the fall.

No, not everyone agrees that the race is over. Like when a baseball team leads the league by 20 games in August, there is still a statistical chance it could lose the race.

The 1964 Philadelphia Phillies had the National League pennant locked up until they lost it, and the 2011 Boston Red Sox were assured of at least the wild card until they weren’t. So, sure, the unthinkable happens.

Although Romney has not yet accumulated the necessary 1,144 delegates to the Republican National Convention in August in Tampa, Fla., the chances are evaporating — make that have evaporated — that he can be denied his party’s nomination.

Or, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza wrote a few days ago, “the ‘walking dead’ phase of the Republican primary is upon us.”

RNC delegate counts by the Associated Press, NBC and CNN all show Romney not only leading second-place Rick Santorum comfortably — by 200 to 300 delegates, depending on the media organization — but also having more delegates than the former Pennsylvania Senator, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) combined.

While Romney has been unable to broaden his appeal to pile up increasingly large percentages of delegates, Santorum has also been unable to do so. Nobody ever seems to mention that.

Santorum continues to win rural voters, evangelicals and other highly religious voters and the most conservative voters. But that’s it. He is likely to win states with large percentages of those kinds of voters, but he can’t win states with fewer religious and fewer ideological voters.

Santorum certainly has victories ahead, but that won’t change the dynamic of the race.  

The GOP calendar still includes Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, New Mexico, Montana and South Dakota — states just like those where Santorum has already run well and won.

But the calendar also includes Maryland, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Utah — states where Romney will win.

And there are some states where the outcomes are less certain.

The steady drumbeat of announcements of support for Romney from party insiders (or acknowledgements from uncommitted current and former officeholders that he will be the party’s nominee) confirms what we are already seeing and hearing from members of the Republican National Committee who will be delegates — that they are falling in line behind Romney.

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