THE MORNING LINE -- March 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM EDT
Romney, Santorum Split Weekend Results
Rick Santorum greets supporters during a rally Saturday in Springfield, Mo. Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images.
In the fight for delegates, the weekend resulted in a split decision for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.
Santorum captured 33 of the 40 delegates doled out in Kansas after receiving 51 percent of the vote in the state's caucuses on Saturday. He swept every county in the state except for one -- Lane -- which Romney eked out by seven votes.
Romney, meanwhile, picked up 22 delegates by sweeping weekend contests in Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
The former Massachusetts governor also won seven of the 12 delegates at stake in Wyoming, where caucuses began last Tuesday. Romney got 44 percent of the vote there, followed by Santorum at 27 percent. Texas Rep. Ron Paul placed third with 12 percent.
Get the full results in our Vote 2012 Map Center.
The latest count in the delegate race, courtesy of the Washington Post, looks like this:
Santorum and Gingrich took to the Sunday morning news shows to push back on the argument that Romney's nomination is a mathematical inevitability.
Santorum appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he contended that Romney "can't close the deal" and won key contests in Michigan and Ohio "by the skin of his teeth," despite significant financial advantages.
Santorum said that the upcoming contests would favor him over Romney. "We've been slowly crawling our way back -- clawing our way back into this race, and, you know, we're in a great position right now as we go forward with states that are very favorable to us in favorable areas of the country," the former Pennsylvania senator said. "I've got my home state yet to go. I mean, Gov. Romney's had about three of his home states already. So it's important for us to look to the future and see the opportunities we have. That's how we get back in this race."
But Santorum refused to call on Gingrich to exit the race to allow him to challenge Romney directly. "The speaker can stay in as long as he wants, but I think the better opportunity to make sure that we nominate a conservative is to give us an opportunity to go head-to-head with Gov. Romney at some point, and hopefully that will occur sooner rather than later."
For his part, Gingrich predicted he would win Tuesday's primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, and that the nominating battle would carry on into the summer.
"Yes, he is a front-runner. He's not a very strong front-runner," the former House speaker declared on Fox News Sunday. "Almost all conservatives are opposed, which is the base of the party. And I think we are likely to see after the last primary in June, we're likely to see a 60-day conversation about what's going to happen as we already see Romney dominating."
As we wrote in this space last week, as long as the conversation focuses on Romney's delegate lead over his competitors, it would appear to benefit him. With Santorum and Gingrich showing no signs of ending their respective bids -- and thus continuing to split the conservative, anyone-but-Romney vote -- it's unlikely that either will be able to surpass Romney unless that dynamic of the race changes.
Politico's Mike Allen got an early look at a memo from Team Santorum suggesting they will argue that Romney has his own problem with delegate math. "Time is on Rick Santorum's side," writes John Patrick Yob in a memo to campaign manager Mike Biundo. "Despite the Romney campaign's smokescreen, they cannot change the fact that he can't inspire the base of the party, has a delegate problem, and has a very difficult time getting to a majority." See the state-by-state breakdown.
President Obama's poll numbers have been moving upward in recent months as the country's employment outlook has gotten brighter, but a poll released Monday reveals that his re-election prospects are still precarious.
The Washington Post/ABC News survey put disapproval of the president's overall job performance at 50 percent, compared to 46 percent of respondents who said they approved. That was a reversal from last month, when Mr. Obama's job approval rating stood at 50 percent, with 46 percent disapproval.
The president's lowest marks came on his handling of gas prices, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying they disapproved, while just 26 percent supported him on the issue.
On the broader issue of the economy, 59 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of the job the president was doing.
The Post's Dan Balz and Jon Cohen look at the cause of the reversal from last month:
The downshift is particularly notable among independents -- 57 percent of whom now disapprove -- and among white people without college degrees, with disapproval among this group now topping approval by a ratio of more than 2 to 1, at 66 versus 28 percent.
These groups are also the ones whose shifting support has re-shuffled prospective general-election matchups. Among registered voters, Obama is now on par with Romney (47 percent for the president, 49 percent for Romney) and Santorum (49 to 46 percent). Previously, Obama held significant advantages over both.
Mark Shields evaluated Romney's Super Tuesday victories with some letter grades: "If you were giving him his report card, you would say he is A-minus [in] arithmetic. The math is very much on his side. He's D in chemistry, because he just is not connecting, all right?"
David Brooks said it's time for Romney to say something along the lines of:
"Look, I don't make your heart beat...And I'm not going to be the heartthrob that you have always wanted to give you an emotional lift or anything of the sort. What I am is, I am an incredibly dependable and competent person. I will be a great steward of this nation's economy. I have no vices. I am a good family man. And this is who I am. I'm not going to be touchy-feely."
Watch here or below.
Christina filled in for Hari Sreenivasan to host the Doubleheader, tackling the sports of politics and the politics of sports with Mark and David. Watch that here.
DISPATCH FROM AUSTIN
Most people don't come to South by Southwest for the political panels. But sessions on shaping campaign messaging, partisan media and voting were packed at the interactive portion of the annual festival, best known for its offerings in music and film.
The Americans Elect panel, billed as the promotion of an online primary, drew tons of interest for its heavy promotion and also by staging "fights" between two people dressed in donkey and elephant costumes all over downtown Austin. During the panel, CEO Kahlil Byrd and chief technology officer Josh Levine got people to download the Americans Elect iPhone app and outlined just how their idea would work.
The basics are that people can sign up now to become "delegates" to the bipartisan nominating process. There already are 400,000 people on the books, they said. Candidates can enter their names or be drafted, and in May the first rounds of online voting will begin. That will eventually winnow the field for a June decision, and each of the candidates left standing must announce a running mate from the opposite party who must also have been a member of that party for four years.
As all of that is happening online, the organization is gaining ballot access across the country by collecting signatures. By next week, there will be efforts afoot in 30 states, and Levine and Byrd said they are confident they can get access in all 50 states. Adviser Mark McKinnon said he's confident, as well, that the candidate would meet the 15 percent polling threshold to be included in the general election debates.
Their process would end outsized importance of a handful of contests in either the primary or general election. "Every American voter has a chance to choose a presidential candidate -- even Texas," Byrd told the crowd. "Your votes absolutely mean something in this process."
Levine said the economy, education and energy remain the most important policy issues for Americans Elect voters. They each said they imagine the Americans Elect effort this year will "filter down" to generate state and local versions in 2014 and beyond.
Among the candidates already being mentioned and featured in their panel PowerPoint: Howard Dean, Jon Huntsman, Colin Powell and Stephen Colbert.
Also Sunday, Christina moderated a panel about the impact that social media has made on the presidential campaign. During the Socializing the Presidency panel, the group outlined the rapid changes since the 2008 race.
For Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, social media gives voters a chance to truth squad politicians and movements, and he's urging people to join him in "preventing disinformation."
Heather Smith of Rock the Vote noted that in 1992, the group registered 200,000 people in a major feat. In 2008, that swelled to 2.2 million thanks to technology. Rock the Vote has found that texting people to urge them to show up at the polls yields the same turnout as a live phone call. Texting is personal, she said, and politicians are learning they can't abuse that.
Political commentator Mary Katharine Ham said that social media has opened up a new dynamic that changes the politician/voter relationship, and that 2012 could be the last election where engagement online will be predictive of the result, because everyone will be doing it.
The panelists touched briefly on money in politics, with Smith saying that if everyone participated in elections, "People would kick money's ass." Maria Teresa Kumar of Voto Latino agreed, saying that people can use their voices to combat the influence of super PACs. She also believes technology has strengthened grassroots organizing on the ground.
Finally, NewsHour's managing editor of education Leah Clapman presented during SXSWedu. She joined Austin High School teacher Gil Garcia to showcase Student Reporting Labs with teens who produced a report on the impact of budget cuts on schools and how younger teachers are the last hired and the first fired. You can see the students' video here.
2012 LINE ITEMS
A poll from the Chicago Tribune and WGN of Illinois Republican voters found a close result ahead of the March 20 primary. Romney had 35 percent and Santorum had 31 percent, within the poll's 4 percent margin of error. Gingrich was at 12 percent and Paul was at 7 percent. A whopping 46 percent of voters said they could change their minds.
Politico's Jonathan Martin learns about a private Texas meeting with conservatives who pledged nearly $2 million to Santorum and said they were "all-in" to help him defeat Romney.
The Las Vegas Review Journal has a fascinating look at how Paul supporters are flooding the ranks of the Clark County Republican Party and could complicate things for Romney come convention time.
Karen Tumulty looked at the GOP's problem with female voters in the Washington Post.
Stephen Braun of the Associated Press reports that when Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he and some of his top aides "used private email accounts to conduct state business." According to the story, the communications were legal, but the state now says the private emails "should have invoked rules about preserving copies of state records."
"Four years after the fact, the Federal Election Commission has gotten around to chastising the man behind a political action committee called 'Californians for Obama' for raising thousands of dollars in support for then-Sen. Barack Obama while obscuring the fact that it didn't have any actual connections to the future president's campaign," Ryan J. Reilly writes for Talking Points Memo.
Two not-Romney voters start their Saturday morning. twitter.com/rchammond/stat...— R.C. Hammond (@rchammond) March 10, 2012
Just about covers it: "Floating Perry as running mate before AL and MS could energize conservatives or turn them off." bit.ly/zRJx0M— Sasha Issenberg (@sissenberg) March 12, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
Seven-term Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., is resigning his seat before his term ends in January so that he can run fulltime for governor.
The Hill writes that in a new book former Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter complains he didn't get enough help from the White House after voting for health care.
Roll Call's Janie Lorber writes about the Cato Institute's feud with the Koch brothers.
Roll Call's Eliza Newlin Carney offers analysis Monday about the strange conundrum of super PAC coordination.
USA Today writes about a strange super PAC that may have illegally pushed for an obscure candidate who won an upset in Ohio in the Democratic primary.
Christopher Lee Carlson of Oregon was arrested Friday on charges he sent threatening letters to members of the House and Senate containing white powder.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama gives in a series of local television interviews from the White House beginning at 11 a.m. and meets with local elected leaders representing the National League of Cities at 2:50 p.m.
Mitt Romney holds a campaign event in Mobile, Ala., at 9:20 a.m.
Rick Santorum holds a meet-and-greet in Ocean Springs, Miss., at 9:30 a.m., addresses the Gulf Coast Energy Summit in Biloxi, Miss., at 12 p.m., holds another meet & greet in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 2:30 p.m., attends the Alabama GOP presidential forum in Birmingham at 6 p.m. and holds a rally in Montgomery, Ala., at 9 p.m.
Newt Gingrich delivers remarks to the Gulf Coast Energy Summit at 11:15 a.m. and participates in the Alabama GOP presidential forum at 6:30 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.