As Republicans head to the polls in Maryland, Washington DC, and Wisconsin today (more on those primaries below), they might be forgiven for wondering if they're merely spinning their wheels. Several developments over the last 24 hours point to a growing consensus that Mitt Romney's eventual nomination is now a fait accompli. To wit:
(1) The Obama campaign is running an ad in swing states that explicitly treats the former governor as the president's general election opponent:
(2) The Republican National Committee has announced it is linking fundraising arms with the Romney campaign, a significant step, both symbolically and practically:
In a move that shows Republicans are coalescing around the party's front-runner, Mitt Romney plans to begin raising money jointly with the Republican National Committee this week as both the candidate and the GOP brace for an expensive general-election fight against President Barack Obama. The arrangement will allow top donors to write checks as large as $75,000 per person, by giving to party organizations in addition to the campaign. That's far more than the $2,500 ceiling that applies to individual donations to a presidential candidate for the fall election.
The move reflects a general clamor within the party to begin amassing the funds needed to compete with Mr. Obama's fundraising operation, Romney and RNC advisers said. "Our donors are ready to mobilize for November," said Andrea Saul, a Romney spokesperson. For the Republican nominee to be able to compete with the president's re-election effort, "they need to get started now." Acknowledging that the nomination fight isn't over, the RNC also invited other candidates to participate in joint fundraising, but with little expectation they would agree, RNC officials said. A spokesman for Newt Gingrich said he didn't plan to work alongside the RNC. Rick Santorum's campaign said they had no plans to join forces...
Newt Gingrich unveiled a new message to Mitt Romney Monday morning if the former Massachusetts governor does become the Republican nominee: pick a conservative platform. But speaking on the eve of three primaries that could potentially seal the Republican nomination in Romney’s favor, Gingrich vowed to only exit the race if a candidate gets the required delegates. “I will be going to Tampa,” he insisted again. But Gingrich's “going to Tampa” line is starting to sound like actually traveling there rather than continuing a campaign there.
Newt and other major players may simply be acknowledging the increasingly decisive math. Barring some earth-shaking political event, Mitt Romney is going to be the Republican candidate for president this fall. Tonight's results are likely to cement that perception even further. Because much of the media coverage of the April 3 primaries is focused on Wisconsin (reasonable, considering there's something of a race up in Badgerland) it's easy to forget that two other jurisdictions are also casting ballots. Maryland and the nation's capital will assign 53 delegates between them based on this evening's results. According to various analyses, Romney looks poised to win somewhere between 47 and all 53 of them. Back to Wisconsin, where recent figures show Romney consistently polling ahead of Santorum by a mid-to-high single digit margin. True, the Pennsylvanian has regularly out-performed his poll position, but his record in the Midwest is spotty. Santorum won Iowa (barely), Missouri, and Minnesota -- but lost Michigan, Ohio and Illinois. If Romney sweeps tonight's trio of contests, expect the "it's over" chorus to grow louder. I'll leave you with Wisconsin Tea Party favorite, freshman Sen. Ron Johnson, offering his electoral blessing to Romney earlier this week:
"I'm looking forward to working with Governor Romney and his team in my new role; I've been asked by leader McConnell to lead an effort to coordinate our agenda and our message in the House, the Senate, and with the presidential candidate, so that we can communicate to the voters of America the very clear choice in our approach."