A political tip sheet for the rest of us outside the Washington Beltway for Monday, March 12, 2012:
SANTORUM'S YELLOW BRICK ROAD. Rick Santorum says his road to the GOP presidential nomination depends on two things: continued chaos in the field and a fractured GOP arriving at its nominating convention in late summer. Despite Mitt Romney's 2-1 lead in the race for convention delegates, Santorum said his standing will improve if conservatives coalesce behind him _ and Newt Gingrich drops out. Santorum contends it will be hard for anyone to get the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination. That will only happen, he says, if conservatives who have been splitting their votes between him and Gingrich finally unite, and preferably behind him. But Romney is on pace to amass the needed delegates by June, barring some major change in the nominating contest.
ROMNEY: NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Romney says candidates always map out scenarios by which they can become their party's presidential nominee, and that's all well and good. But he said it would take an act of divine intervention for Santorum to win the nomination. "If he's able to pull off a miracle, so be it. He'll be the nominee," Romney said during an interview on Fox News Channel. Romney noted that he's the leader in delegates and in votes and said he will get the needed delegates. Going into the late August convention without a nominee, Romney said, would be a huge gift for President Barack Obama and the Democrats. "That's just not going to happen," he said.
NORRIS FOR NEWT. Gingrich is using actor Chuck Norris to help round up votes ahead of Tuesday's primaries in the south. In an automated campaign calls to voters in Alabama and Mississippi, Norris, who has endorsed Gingrich, says Gingrich is the only candidate who can defeat President Barack Obama "head to head." "As president, Newt will repeal Obamacare, get rid of Obama's czars and use common-sense measures like, building the Keystone Pipeline to lower the cost of gas to two and a half dollars a gallon. The election is too important to get wrong. We need a bold conservative leader to take on President Obama. We need Newt Gingrich. When you vote this Tuesday, please join me in supporting Newt Gingrich for president."
Voting in the Republican presidential nominating race continues in Alabama, Mississippi, Hawaii and American Samoa. Alabama and Mississippi have primaries. American Samoa and Hawaii will hold caucuses. It could be another long night, depending on one's level of interest in the outcomes in Hawaii and American Samoa.
All times EDT.
Polls close across in Alabama at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. In Mississippi, the polls close at 8 p.m.
The caucuses in American Samoa convene at 11 p.m. First results aren't expected until after 2:30 a.m.
Voting in the Hawaii caucuses ends at 2 a.m., with initial results expected shortly thereafter.
DELEGATES AT STAKE:
The four contests offer a total of 107 delegates.
_ Alabama: 47
_ Mississippi: 37
_ Hawaii: 17
_ American Samoa: 6
AP DELEGATE TRACKER:
Latest totals, following weekend voting in Kansas, Wyoming, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It takes 1,144 delegates to secure the Republican presidential nomination.
_ Romney: 454
_ Santorum: 217
_ Gingrich: 107
_ Paul: 47
WHERE THEY'LL BE ON TUESDAY:
_ Gingrich: Alabama
_ Paul: Not campaigning
_ Romney: Missouri
_ Santorum: Louisiana
_ Obama: Ohio, taking British Prime Minister David Cameron to an NCAA Tournament basketball game in Dayton
Romney turned 65 on Monday.
IN THEIR WORDS:
_ "There's no away game for me. The entire country is a country that I feel comfortable with." _ Santorum, in a dig at Romney, who described campaigning for the Deep South contests as "a bit of an away game."
_ "This president has done almost everything wrong." _ Romney.
_ "The president wants to raise taxes because he's anti-oil. He wants to take the oil industry's money and spend it on Solyndra because he believes wasting money on high-technology, green industry is good particularly if you have a bureaucrat in charge of the venture capital." _ Gingrich.