Yup, you read that right. Because of victories in Hawaii and American Samoa, Romney has actually widened his lead over his competitors a bit.
Interestingly, as he claimed victory in Mississippi and Alabama, Santorum asserted that "we are going to win the nomination before the convention." Show us the math, please.
Indeed, it seems to be a stretch, given that in states like California (winner take all, with 172 delegates), Romney currently leads Santorum by around 20 points. Other winner-take-all states coming up like New Jersey, Delaware, Utah and DC do not seem like terribly fertile fields for Santorum, either. So how does he close the gap?
Obviously, the senator is aware there is a problem. That's why -- as recently as Monday -- he was touting the hope of an open convention, where supposedly delegates would desert Romney and flock to him. Gingrich vaguely alludes to the same scenario with his talk of a "60 day conversation" before the convention, where he asserts Romney won't have an absolute majority.
Even if one concedes the possibility of Romney arriving at the convention without an absolute majority of delegates, think of how crazy and how divisive the Santorum/Gingrich pipe dream would be.
They are envisioning "faithless delegates," already pledged to Romney, deserting their candidate and flocking to one of them. They see themselves as possibly the consensus choice -- despite conceding that fewer Republicans would have voted for either of them than Romney in the primaries; despite the fact that they both carry heavy baggage; and despite the fact that -- if an "open convention" came to pass -- there are far more popular and electable figures in the GOP than they.
Think of the chaos and division that would emerge under such a scenario. Both Santorum and Gingrich are envisioning the modern equivalent of a grubby back room deal, wherein the GOP elites (i.e. delegates) ignore the expressed wishes of a plurality of GOP voters and hand the nomination either to one of them (both of whom had the opportunity to win the plurality but failed to do so) or else bring in someone entirely new, who didnt choose to run in the first place and on whom regular GOP voters have had no opportunity to weigh in (and who, like Rick Perry, might seem like an attractive alternative until s/he's actually in the race as a candidate). This is a recipe for bitterness and blowback in the GOP ranks.
Yet Santorum and Gingrich think such a result will yield party unity, avoid division, and set up Republicans to retake The White House in the fall? They think it is a preferable result to the party rallying around Romney, notwithstanding his flaws (which all candidates have), andy despite the fact that in states like Michigan and Ohio, voters' second choices (after either Gingrich or Santorum) is Romney? Pleeeese. These are ego-driven fantasies that will destroy any chance for Republicans to retake The White House -- or the Senate.
One needn't be a Romney supporter or a psychic to understand just how destructive and ridiculous the fantasy is.