Rivals Refuse Romney’s Call to Step Aside

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  March 8, 2012 at 9:19 AM EDT

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Mitt Romney and his wife Ann talk to reporters aboard his campaign plane Tuesday. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

As the Republican presidential primary plods on, it’s becoming a contest of which candidate can call for which candidate to end his bid.

On Wednesday, Mitt Romney’s campaign made the case that the former Massachusetts governor’s lead in the hunt for delegates was nearly insurmountable, signaling to the three other contenders that the time had come to step aside.

“Super Tuesday dramatically reduced the likelihood that any of Governor Romney’s opponents can obtain the Republican nomination,” campaign political director Rich Beeson wrote in a memo. “As Governor Romney’s opponents attempt to ignore the basic principles of math, the only person’s odds of winning they are increasing are President Obama’s.”

Campaigning in Lenexa, Kan., on Wednesday, Rick Santorum decried the tactic. “What won’t they resort to, to try to bully their way through this race?” the former Pennsylvania senator told reporters following an event with supporters. “If the governor thinks he’s now ordained by God to win, then let’s just have it out. I feel very, very good that we’re running a race energizing people. We’re the man versus the machine. They got the machine. They got the insiders and the big money, and we got the people. And I like my chances.”

The por-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund super PAC argued Wednesday that Santorum’s chances would improve if former House Speaker Newt Gingrich ended his bid.

“With Gingrich exiting the race it would be a true head-to-head race and conservatives would be able to make a choice between a consistent conservative in Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney,” the super PAC’s Stuart Roy said in a statement. “For instance, with Gingrich out of the race Santorum would have won both Ohio and Michigan. Newt has become a hindrance to a conservative alternative.”

For his part, Gingrich told supporters in Montgomery, Ala., Wednesday that he was the only true conservative left in the race. “We are staying in this race because I believe that it’s going to be impossible for a moderate to win the general election,” he said.

Gingrich refocused his campaign on Alabama and Mississippi, which both vote on Tuesday, and canceled a series of appearances in Kansas ahead of that state’s caucuses on Saturday.

“A big win in Georgia kept us in the race. Big wins in Alabama and Mississippi will add even more fuel to the tank,” campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond told reporters.

The pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning our Future has been advertising there for several weeks, as The Morning Line reported. Politico’s Alex Burns writes about the influx of money flooding television stations in those Southern states.

After Tuesday, there will be 31 Republican contests to go, and five of them are caucuses.

McClatchy’s Steven Thomma crunched the numbers and figured out what percent of the remaining delegates each candidate needs to secure the GOP nomination:

As of Wednesday, Santorum needs to win 63 percent of the remaining delegates to win the nomination. Gingrich needs to win 67 percent. Paul needs 71 percent. Romney needs 47 percent.

On Wednesday, Gwen Ifill talked to USA Today’s Susan Page, Pew’s Andrew Kohut and former Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, now director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, about the path ahead for the Republican candidates. The bottom line: Romney has one, the others don’t.

Watch the NewsHour’s report here or below.

OBAMA AMPING UP

President Obama’s campaign is releasing a new “documentary,” advisers announced in a conference call Wednesday. The film, which is titled “The Road We’ve Traveled,” is intended to set the tone for the general election.

“The film is an opportunity to put into perspective the challenges the country faced when President Obama took office, the tough decisions he made in the face of those challenges and the progress we’ve made in rebuilding an economy that’s meant to last and strengthening and securing our nation,” the campaign said in a press release Thursday.

Tom Hanks narrates the film, which is directed by Davis Guggenheim (“Waiting for ‘Superman,’” “An Inconvenient Truth”). It will “premiere” at campaign offices across the country next Thursday.

Watch a trailer for “The Road We’ve Traveled” here or below.

NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns reported that on the conference call, Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod compared the GOP’s long fight and dissatisfaction with Romney to “trying to turn hamburger into steak.”

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Patchwork Nation’s Dante Chinni examined the demographic and geographic breakdown of counties that voted on Super Tuesday and found “nagging problems remain.” Take a look.

  • Alabama State University has Santorum leading next week’s GOP primary with 23 percent, followed by Romney at 19 percent and Gingrich at 14 percent. Thirty percent of respondents in the survey, taken before Super Tuesday, were undecided.

  • BuzzFeed posted video of a young Mr. Obama speaking at a Harvard protest. Frontline puts the clip in context. Andrew Golis explains and includes the full footage here:

[T]here’s nothing new about the clip or Obama’s role in the controversy at Harvard Law School. In 2008, as a part of our quadrennial election special The Choice 2008, FRONTLINE ran the same footage of the speech as a part of an exploration of Obama’s time at Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1991. It’s been online at our site and on YouTube since then.

  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul is airing an ad in Hawaii ahead of its caucuses Tuesday.

  • Siena released a poll of New York Republicans showing Romney with a 15-point lead for the April 24 primary, one of the few large delegate prizes ahead on the calendar.

  • The Washington Post’s Hank Stuever reviews the new film “Game Change,” which is based on the book about the 2008 campaign. It premieres in Washington on Thursday and on HBO Saturday.

  • The NewsHour’s Elizabeth Summers won the Team Politics Super Tuesday prediction contest with just one incorrect guess and coming closest to guessing the margin in Ohio. Terence came in second place, with just one loss.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Liberal Democrats were bummed out Wednesday when Rep. Chellie Pingree passed on a chance to seek Republican Olympia Snowe’s Senate seat in Maine.

  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz writes about how Rep. Jean Schmidt’s loss in Ohio’s GOP primary is serving as a warning sign for incumbents this year.

  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed legislation Wednesday mandating that women undergo ultrasounds before having abortions. A similar debate is playing out in Idaho.

  • The Washington Post’s Paul Kane looks at the Campaign for Primary Accountability, the anti-incumbent super PAC targeting lawmakers of both parties.

  • Former Obama campaign adviser Steve Hildebrand is opening a coffee shop in Sioux Falls, S.D. Hildebrand said Josiah’s Coffeehouse & Cafe will open early this summer along the Big Sioux River. “It’s something I’ve thought about doing for probably 15 years, some kind of food establishment,” he told the Argus Leader.

  • South by Southwest begins in Austin on Friday. The Associated Press looks at the annual festival’s evolution.

  • Christina will talk about how the Internet has changed television news in a call with Personal Democracy Forum on Thursday. More details are here. She is also moderating a South by Southwest panel on Sunday about how social media has changed the campaign. Here are the details, tell all your friends.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have dinner with winners of a campaign fundraising push in Washington, D.C., at 5:35 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich holds three Mississippi rallies: in Jackson at 10 a.m., Tupelo at 4:30 p.m. and Southaven at 9 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds a pair of Alabama rallies: in Huntsville at 11 a.m. and Pelham at 3 p.m. He also addresses the Alabama Policy Institute in Mobile at 7 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney attends a campaign event in Pascagoula, Miss., at 6 p.m.

  • Ron Paul has no public campaign events scheduled.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers and @suddinengel.