The Tension Mounts. Or Not.
As expected, Mitt Romney won the Illinois primary – and he won it pretty convincingly. In the aftermath, the press is full of two very predictable reactions.
The first reaction is Rick Santorum’s: his loss in Illinois is no big deal, it was to be expected. Santorum says that Illinois was a Romney gimme because the state is so liberal, evidenced by the fact that Illinois is President Obama’s home state. Although it’s nice to hear a Republican acknowledge that President Obama’s home state is not Kenya, it’s entirely unclear how the preponderance of Democrats in Illinois has any relevance to the composition of the Republican primary electorate in Illinois. Still, you go with what you got, and evidently Santorum’s best excuse for getting thumped in Illinois is that Illinois Republicans aren’t authentic Republicans, so their preference for Romney doesn’t mean anything.
The second reaction to Romney’s win comes from the punditocracy: Romney’s nomination is now inevitable. All that’s left is the counting. “G.O.P. Nomination Becoming a One-Man Race,” says FiveThirtyEight. That will last a day or two, then the commentariat will notice there are still a few more primaries on the calendar. Then they’ll have to drum up some tension around those primaries. Already, the New York Times has noticed that Pennsylvania will be holding a primary. “Pennsylvania Rises in Importance for Santorum,” says the Times headline.
Louisiana Republicans vote this Saturday, and polls show a likely win for Santorum. Wisconsin is one of three contests in two weeks, and polls show a likely win for Santorum there as well. After each of those wins, you can expect to hear commentary about Santorum breathing new life into his campaign. Shocking, I know, but you heard it here first.
I’ve blogged it before and I’ll blog it again: Romney was ahead before Super Tuesday, he was ahead after Super Tuesday, and he’s still ahead. Romney will be the Republican nominee, regardless what Santorum does in Louisiana or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania – and, by the way, regardless whether Newt Gingrich stays in the race. According to the Times’ delegate tracker, 249 delegates have been allocated since Super Tuesday. Of those, 140 have gone to Romney – well over half. In other words, Romney’s odds of winning the nomination have not just remained steady since Super Tuesday; his odds have gone up.