General Election Begins After Romney’s Sweep

BY Christina Bellantoni  April 4, 2012 at 9:05 AM EST

Mitt Romney supporters in Wisconsin; photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Supporters of Mitt Romney celebrate at a primary night rally in Milwaukee. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

There are a lot of numbers that matter in politics. Here are the ones that matter most on Wednesday:

655
That’s how many delegates Mitt Romney has collected after Republicans have had their say in 37 contests nationwide. He’s a long way from the 1,144 needed to claim the nomination officially, but for Rick Santorum, with just 278 delegates, the math just isn’t there. (Newt Gingrich has 135, Ron Paul has 51.)

216
The days until the general election. Both Romney and President Obama intend to stay focused on the other for each and every one of them.

50%
The percentage of voters who “strongly support” the tea party movement that Romney was able to capture in Wisconsin, a marked shift from earlier contests. He tied Santorum for the most conservative voters.

270
The new magic number Team Romney is going to be worried about. It’s going to be all about a path to victory on the Electoral College map. Romney’s aides are pondering how much effort to expend on the Pennsylvania primary over the next three weeks, and they get a 2-for-1 benefit since the Keystone State has long been the battleground that got away for the GOP.

Romney’s sweep of Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., on Tuesday just solidifies what Mr. Obama’s team in Chicago has thought all along: The former Massachusetts governor is the president’s sole foe.

Romney easily won in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and defeated Santorum in Wisconsin by more than 35,000 votes.

His victory speech in Milwaukee offered a preview of the general election battle lines. He suggested the president doesn’t want America’s economy to succeed and said he’d be the one to lift the nation up with conservative principles.

Watch Romney’s speech here or below.

Speaking in Mars, Pa., Santorum might as well have been on another planet.

Looking deflated, the former senator told supporters in his home state that he is much like Ronald Reagan, who was told to exit the race in 1976. Had Reagan won that primary, he would have won the presidency that year, Santorum argued. “Let’s not make a mistake” by selecting a moderate nominee, Santorum said.

“We can’t have little differences” between the two party nominees, he said. “We have to have clear, contrasting colors.” He also said he expects to win the Texas primary in late May, just like Reagan.

You can watch Santorum’s full speech here.

Huffington Post’s Jon Ward spent Tuesday with some Pennsylvania Tea Party activists, who told him they aren’t sure Santorum can even win his home state.

From the piece we learn that the pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC “has already been running a small amount of TV advertising.” And Team Romney is attacking Santorum with robocalls. One state senator told Ward he’s already gotten eight of them to his home.

The Washington Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar also jumped the trail to Pennsylvania and writes Wednesday that another setback there could tarnish Santorum’s political future.

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

For his part, Mr. Obama attempted to steal the headline away from the primaries by going after Republicans with blistering rhetoric. He lambasted Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget blueprint and mocked Romney for calling it “marvelous.”

On Tuesday’s NewsHour, Judy Woodruff moderated a spirited debate over the president’s remarks between the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ Jared Bernstein and the Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell, who argued the cuts in the GOP plan don’t go far enough.

The two sparred in what could be a preview of some of the economic debates ahead this election year.

Watch the segment here or below.

Ryan, who spent the week with Romney on the campaign trail, raised money off of the attack, Huffington Post’s Michael McAuliff reports.

Daily Kos commissioned Public Policy Polling to survey attitudes about the Ryan budget, and found Republicans don’t like it all that much.

NEWSHOUR NOTES

Do you speak another language? The NewsHour would love to recruit you for our translation project.

We’re embarking on the crowd-sourced effort because we believe that everyone should have access to the political conversation regardless of whether English is their first language. We also believe that people who have hearing difficulties or are deaf should be able to see and read important moments and be able to learn what their fellow Americans think.

So that means we’ll be asking for your help to deliver key moments in the political cycle and the voices of fellow Americans in as many languages as possible.

Hari Sreenivasan has more details here.

2012 LINE ITEMS

  • Dante Chinni’s Patchwork Nation analysis of Wisconsin is here.

  • Just as the first network called Wisconsin for Romney, Gingrich released a statement. But it had nothing to do with the election; instead, he and Callista were offering condolences for those affected by the Texas tornadoes.

  • Here’s Gingrich’s election night statement that came later: “To defeat President Obama and change Washington, our party must commit itself to a bold, conservative platform. We cannot win on an etch-a-sketch platform that shows no principle or backbone. The Washington establishment wants to declare this race over, but I am committed to carrying the banner of bold conservative colors all the way to Tampa to ensure the Republican Party never abandons the timeless conservative principles of Ronald Reagan and the Contract with America.”

  • Paul boasted in a press release that his campaign team won Pollie Awards for his ads.

  • The New York Times’ Jeremy Peters reports the Obama campaign’s ad buy we posted about Tuesday is $1.4 million.

  • Politico reports “that 62 percent of Jewish voters prefer Obama over a generic Republican. About a third of American Jews prefer a Republican candidate. Of those that prefer a GOP candidate, 56 percent back Mitt Romney. Among voters who backed Obama in 2008, 86 percent want him reelected — with 7 percent crossing over to support a generic Republican.”

  • Team Obama rolls out “Runway to Win,” a project by fashion designers who back the president.

TOP TWEETS

OUTSIDE THE LINES

  • Roll Call’s Abby Livingston rounds up the competitive House primaries in Maryland.

  • Former Vice President Dick Cheney was released from the hospital. See a photo here.

  • An appeals court is taking aim at the president’s comments about the Supreme Court over the health care reform law.

  • Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., broke her leg.

  • Karen Leigh writes for Foreign Policy about what’s happening in Afghanistan.

  • Watch Gwen Ifill’s report on the surge in auto sales.

  • Here’s the transcript of the live chat Stone Phillips and Hari did about the NewsHour piece on youth football and hard hits.

  • The Washington Post reports that BlackBerry is still the preferred device of half-a-million federal workers in official Washington.

  • Baseball is back.

NewsHour Politics Desk Assistant Ryan C. Brooks contributed to this report.

ON THE TRAIL

All events are listed in Eastern Time.

  • Mitt Romney gives speeches in Washington, D.C., at 11:45 a.m. and at the Iron Shop in Broomall, Pa., at 6:30 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum is campaigning in Pennsylvania at Bob’s Diner in Carnegie at 11:30 a.m., a rally at the Blair County Courthouse in Hollidaysburg at 3 p.m. and bowling in Mechanicsburg at 7 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich will hold an event at the Lumina Centre at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington at 3:30 p.m.

  • Ron Paul will hold a town hall meeting at UCLA at 11:30 p.m.

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.